John Mitchell says he is enjoying the different challenges that come with his new role as coach of the USA’s national rugby team, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
Mitchell took up his post in January after he was overlooked for the Stormers coaching job, and while he has moved into a new international position, he still remains based in Durban.
Mitchell says a large part of his role involves planning and preparation, which he is able to conduct remotely, while he will travel back to the US when necessary, such as for an elite training camp before two all-important matches against Italy and Russia in June.
'It’s certainly been a different challenge,' Mitchell told SARugbymag.co.za. ‘There are close to 100 different people that I need to keep in contact with on a regular basis, so my hands are full. Regardless of the time zone difference, there's plenty of work I'd need to be doing remotely even if I was based in America full-time.
‘There is a considerable admin element to the role, but it’s very exciting. It’s very much about what you can get done out of the Test windows in terms of putting plans in place.’
Although the USA produced a mixed bag of results as they finished as runners-up in the Americas Rugby Championship earlier this year, Mitchell reiterated that the aims for the competition were not primarily results-based.
‘We worked with what was very much a development group for the ARC, and effectively had a new team every week. It was more about understanding the landscape, planning for the future and identifying what the weaknesses are. It was also important to conduct talent identification and to assess which players could become ready to face tier-one opponents as we’ll experience later in the year. It became clear to me what needs to be done, and how important it is to maximise the resources we have in order to create a bigger player pool to select from.’
In this regard, Mitchell said he was looking forward to the start of an inaugural domestic competition in the US, which will be contested between teams from Ohio, Denver, Sacramento, San Francisco and San Diego later this year.
Mitchell explained that he was also now finalising elite training squads that will be aimed at creating depth and competition.
‘We’ll look to develop where there are positional weaknesses and focus on what resources are required in the future. Some players have different requirements, while strength and conditioning will be a big focus to ensure they can perform at their optimum.’
Interestingly, Mitchell also explained how the 15s and sevens programmes continued to operate in tandem, with the USA Sevens side having impressed in this year’s Sevens Series.
‘We will need to have patience, we’ve got staff and players involved in both programmes, but there is real synergy between the two. Planning is in place to build towards strengthening the player pool and it’s important that we develop the physical and mental capacity to bridge any gap. It’s about working together, and I’m looking forward to spending time with some of the sevens players when the time is right. The sevens side is an ambitious and professional group, which all augurs well.’
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