Mitchell opens up on England exit

John Mitchell has denied reports of a falling out with Eddie Jones despite quitting his role as England defence coach just months after signing a contract extension.

Mitchell stepped down from his defence coaching role in July after signing a February contract extension that was to take him through to the 2023 World Cup in France. He has since taken up a similar position with Wasps.

Reports emerged in English media in October that the abrupt parting of ways had its origins in a dispute where Jones allegedly tried to prevent Mitchell from watching his son Daryl, an international cricketer for New Zealand, play for Middlesex on a day off.

However, Mitchell Snr denied this was the specific reason for his exit, instead highlighting the toll of working for England in tight bio-bubble conditions compared to the better work-life balance of working with a Premiership club.

“It was an easy decision actually in the end,” Mitchell said. “I had a normal chat and at the end said: ‘Eddie, I’m done mate, thanks very much. You’ve now got the opportunity to find someone else.’

“I think at 57 years of age I value things differently in my life, and just made a decision that I felt that I wanted to get out of international rugby at that point. And you’re sick of the bubbles, sick of the time away from home and I wanted to look at returning to club rugby.

“I wake up and coach every day wanting to enjoy it and wanting to be myself. That’s the most important thing to me. I woke up one day in April, having been thinking about it for a month at least, and just thought: ‘I’ve got to make sure I live by what I value the most’. I thought: ‘It’s time to make the right decision’.”

Mitchell added that he still enjoys a “very good relationship” with Jones and hinted the disappointment of being sacked as the All Blacks head coach after their World Cup semi-final exit in 2003 meant he was less willing to try and go one better than England’s silver medal finish in 2019.

“If a gold medal was important to me and a World Cup, if that was my main priority, then maybe my decision would be different, but I value life more than just winning a World Cup,” he said. “My life has been exposed before in not winning a World Cup, so I know exactly what that’s like. I’m certainly not going to put myself in that situation again.”

Photo: Paul Harding/Getty Images

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Dylan Jack