Former England flyhalf Stuart Barnes has questioned John Mitchell’s appointment as defence coach.
Mitchell recently left the Bulls, who finished 12th on this year’s overall Super Rugby log. With his contract only set to expire in October 2019, the English RFU paid the Bulls £200,000 in compensation.
Barnes, writing in the London Sunday Times, said while Mitchell had plenty of coaching experience, he had never served as a defence coach before, while the Bulls had conceded the second-most tries in Super Rugby this year.
The Sky Sports commentator also asked why the RFU had agreed to let Mitchell continue living in South Africa instead of moving to England.
‘I have been a broadcaster for . . . shall we say quite some time. During commentary I tend to have one eye on the coverage on screen and one on the field. The pictures naturally tend to follow the ball. With television you get the narrow, not the broader picture. Apart from the politics of doing the rounds, [England head coach Eddie] Jones clocks up thousands of miles watching live rugby with his own eyes for professional reasons.
‘Mitchell will not be doing that. He won’t be able to sit down and talk with defence coaches – which might help given that the concept is pretty new to him – or develop a rapport with his squad. I am sure that the RFU will provide their own detailed DVDs but they will never be the same as watching the panoramic details of the game in the flesh.
‘I would go as far as to say that he will not be able to provide the 100% focus Jones demands of every other coach with whom he has worked. Jones demands sacrifices from his staff. Not everybody is willing to make them and suddenly here is John Mitchell, remaining based in South Africa for family reasons. One year out from the World Cup.’
Barnes finished his column by saying that ‘Mitchell is not an inveterate winner. He is not prepared to live in England. He endured a miserable season as far as the Bulls defence was concerned. And he is not a defensive specialist. Apart from air miles and experience, it’s hard to see what he brings.’
Mitchell’s coaching history:
1994-95: Fraser Tech player/coach
1996: Ireland forwards coach
1996-99: Sale Sharks head coach
1999-2000: Wasps forwards coach
1997-2000: England forwards coach
2001: Chiefs head coach
2001-03: New Zealand head coach
2004-05: Waikato head coach
2006-10: Force head coach
2010-12: Golden Lions/Lions head coach
2012: Sale Sharks coaching consultant
2013: University of KwaZulu-Natal head coach
2016-17: USA head coach
2017-18: Blue Bulls/Bulls head coach
Photo: Lee Warren/Gallo Images