John Mitchell (rugby union)

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John Mitchell
John Mitchell, rugby union2.JPG
John Mitchell, coaching the Western Force
Full name John Eric Paul Mitchell
Date of birth (1964-03-23) 23 March 1964 (age 52)
Place of birth Hawera, Taranaki, New Zealand
Height 1.90 m (6 ft 3 in)
Weight 108 kg (17 st 0 lb)
School Francis Douglas Memorial College
Rugby union career
Playing career
Position Flanker / Number 8 / Lock
Amateur clubs
Years Club / team
1983–1984
1984–1995
King Country
Fraser Tech
Professional / senior clubs
Years Club / team Caps (points)
1990–1991 Garryowen
Provincial/State sides
Years Club / team Caps (points)
1985–1995 Waikato 134 (335)
Coaching career
Years Club / team
1994–1995
1996
1996–1999
1997–2000
1999–2000
2000
2000–2001
2001–2003
2004–2005
2006–2010
2010–2012
2011–2012
2012
2013–2014
2016–
Fraser Tech
Ireland (Forwards coach)
Sale Sharks
England (Forwards coach)
London Wasps (Asst. coach)
Waikato B
Chiefs
New Zealand
Waikato
Western Force
Golden Lions
Lions
Sale Sharks (Director of Rugby)
UKZN
United States
correct as of 4 January 2016.

John Eric Paul Mitchell (born 23 March 1964) is a New Zealand rugby union coach and former player. He is currently the head coach of the United States, after formerly coaching the All Blacks, English side Sale Sharks, and Super Rugby sides the Chiefs, Lions and Western Force.

Playing career[edit]

Early career[edit]

Born 23 March 1964 in Hawera, New Zealand, Mitchell was a pupil at Francis Douglas Memorial College in New Plymouth when he made the first XV; he was a member of the NZ secondary schools basketball team from 1981–83. He represented NZ Juniors in basketball in 1982–83, but then decided to concentrate on rugby. From here, he earned a place at King Country RFU aged 19 before playing for Fraser-Tech from 1984. He was soon selected provincially for the Waikato Colts.

Provincial[edit]

He made his Waikato senior debut in 1985 and played at number eight, blindside flanker and lock before he became firmly established at number eight. Equal top scorer in first division rugby in 1989–90, he thus scored more tries over these seasons than any other NZ first division player.[citation needed]

Mitchell was given the Waikato captaincy in 1989. In 1990, because of a broken leg, he could only play half the games. He was reappointed captain in 1991 and led magnificently from that time on until his retirement just prior to the start of the 1995 season.[citation needed] Overall he played 134 games for Waikato, including a record 86 times as captain, scoring 335 points from 67 tries. In the off season, Mitchell played club rugby in France and Ireland, which included a stint with Garryowen in the All-Ireland League. He was part of the team that finished second on the 1990–91 season to Cork Constitution.

All Blacks[edit]

Though Mitchell never played for the All Blacks at test level, he did represent the team on 6 occasions in 1993. He traveled as part of the 1993 tour of Britain squad, where he featured in 6 uncapped matches. His first was against a Midland Division side on 26 October 1993 where the All Blacks came out victors 12–6. He later went on to captain the side three times, all resulting in victories; Scottish Development XV 31–12, England Emerging Players 30–19 and Combined Services 13–3.[1][2][3]

He also featured for a Classic All Blacks side in 1995 in Bermuda.[4]

Honors[edit]

Waikato

Coaching[edit]

Coaching in England 1996–2000[edit]

Despite not retiring from playing until 1995, Mitchell featured as a player/coach at Fraser Tech until his retirement. When Murray Kidd was named the new Irish rugby coach in 1995, he brought in Mitchell as a technical adviser/forwards coach in January 1996.[5] In May 1996, he was brought into the Sale Sharks by coach Paul Turner who later stood down at the end of the 1995–96 season. Mitchell subsequently became in charge of Sale until 1999. In 1997, Mitchell was targeted by newly appointed head coach of England, Clive Woodward, to be the new forwards coach. He was one of the key figures in improving England to go on and win the 2003 Rugby World Cup, despite leaving the national set-up in 2000.[citation needed]

Return to New Zealand[edit]

In late 2000 Mitchell returned to New Zealand ahead of his appointment as the new head coach of the Chiefs in the Super 12.[6] He led the side to sixth in the table.

Head coach of New Zealand[edit]

In October 2001, after a single year back in New Zealand, Mitchell was named the head coach of the New Zealand national side.[7] Just a month after being appointed as head coach, Mitchell's first match in charge was against Ireland in Dublin, which saw the All Blacks win 40–29, before going onto beat Scotland 37–6, and Argentina 24–20. In 2002, Mitchell was unable to lead the All Blacks to reclaim the Bledisloe Cup, having not won the trophy since 1997. The All Blacks reclaimed the trophy a year later, however, winning both games.

He lead the All Blacks to a third-place finish at the 2003 Rugby World Cup, with victories over Italy, Canada, Tonga and Wales in the group stage to finish top of Pool D. The All Blacks beat the Springboks 29–9 in the quarterfinals, but lost to hosts Australia in the semifinal 22–10. Following that loss, Mitchell lost his job as All Blacks coach. The NZRU cited Mitchell's difficult relationships with the media and with sponsors as the main reasons for searching for other head coaching candidates, rather than the performance of the team.[8]

Honors[edit]

Coaching 2004–2010[edit]

After leaving the All Blacks, Mitchell took over Waikato ahead of the 2004 National Provincial Championship. In his first season in charge, Waikato bowed out at the Semi Finals after losing to Wellington 28–16, while in 2005, they failed to make the play-offs at all, finishing seventh after the regular season.

In 2006, Mitchell became the first ever New Zealander to coach an Australia Super Rugby franchise when he took over the Western Force in their debut season of the expanded competition Super 14. In their first season they finished last with just a single victory, coming in Round 13 against the Cheetahs, winning 16–14. In their second season, they jumped up to seventh on the table picking up 6 victories before falling back down the table across the 2008, 2009 and 2010 seasons. Mitchell was released as coach of the Western Force.

South Africa[edit]

Mitchell took up a role in South Africa as Golden Lions head coach, before returning to the Super Rugby in 2011 with the Lions.[9][10] On 29 October 2011 it was Kiwi against Kiwi in the 2011 Currie Cup final when Mitchell's Golden Lions hosted a star-studded The Sharks rugby team under fellow Kiwi John Plumtree in Johannesburg. The Sharks team included the full Springbok front row as well as seven more Springboks. The Golden Lions won the match 42–16[11] to win their first Currie Cup Championship in 12 years and also winning their first Currie Cup title on their home field in 61 years.[12]

On 22 June 2012, he was suspended after complaints from Lions players regarding the manner in which they were treated by Mitchell.[13] In November, he was found not guilty of all charges against him and reinstated as Lions head coach.[14] However, on 23 November 2012, he quit as coach to take over as a technical adviser at the Lions.[15] On the 28 November 2012 after two seasons with the Lions, Mitchell then accepted a position at Sale Sharks in the UK towards the end of 2012.[16] However, on 29 December 2012, Sale announced Mitchell had returned to South Africa citing "personal reasons".[17]

On September 11, 2013, Mitchell was named head coach of UKZN in the Varsity Cup.[18]

Head coach of the United States[edit]

Following the 2015 Rugby World Cup, Mitchell applied for the vacant head coach position of the England national team, but failed to be selected for the role, with Eddie Jones being the preferred candidate.[19]

On January 4, 2016, USA Rugby announced Mitchell as the new head coach of the USA Eagles, taking over from Mike Tolkin. The four-year contract will see him take the USA Eagles through the 2019 Rugby World Cup.[20] His first match in charge was an uncapped match against Argentina XV in the inaugural Americas Rugby Championship. The game was drawn 35–all in a game that included 11 uncapped players in the USA's team. Those 11 uncapped players were later officially capped a week later when Mitchell led USA to a 30–22 victory over Canada, the American's fourth consecutive victory over the Canadians. On 20 February, USA went top of the table with a 64–0 victory over Chile, however the States failed to keep hold of that position a week later when they were "surprisingly" beaten by Brazil in Barueri 24–23, with a last minute penalty to the Brazilians. It was the first ever meeting between the two nations, with Brazil earning their first ever victory over a tier 2 nation. On 5 March, Uruguay earned their first victory over the Americans since 2002, when they defeated the Eagles 29–25 in Montevideo. USA finished the Championship in second place with 15 points, 7 points behind Champions Argentina XV.

In June 2016, the United States put up a convincing display against Italy, going down 24–20. A week later, the States down rivals Russia 25–0.

Other honors[edit]

England (as assistant coach)

London Wasps (as assistant coach)

Golden Lions

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Sporting positions
Preceded by
New Zealand Wayne Smith
All Blacks coach
2001–2003
Succeeded by
New Zealand Graham Henry
Preceded by
United States Mike Tolkin
USA National Rugby Union Coach
2016–present
Succeeded by
Incumbent