John Mitchell has made a shock decision to quit his role as England defence coach to join the Gallagher Premiership club Wasps.
Telegraph Sport understands that Mitchell handed in his resignation on June 9, alerting Wasps to his availability. The Rugby Football Union last night stated that he would only leave after the autumn international series of matches, however his departure date could be tied to the future of Martin Gleeson, the Wasps assistant coach.
Gleeson has been identified as England’s No 1 candidate to replace Simon Amor who was forced out after a disappointing Six Nations campaign. However, Wasps are unlikely to authorise Gleeson’s immediate departure unless they can get Mitchell on board in time in an effective job swap.
It means that Jones just has one assistant in his situ in the form of forwards coach Matt Proudfoot just two years out from the World Cup. Skills coach Jason Ryles pulled out of joining Jones’ team from Australia over Covid-19 concerns while Amor also left this summer. Mitchell’s dramatic departure will raise further questions of Jones’ managerial style in which the relentless churn of assistant coaches has been a feature of his reign.
“I’d like to thank John for his hard work and dedication over the last four years, he will go with the best wishes from everyone in the England team,” Jones said. “I am sure he will do a great job in his new role at Wasps.”
In February, Mitchell had signed a two and half year contract extension which should have taken him through to the 2023 World Cup. Not only was Mitchell the longest-serving assistant coach under head coach Eddie Jones, but he was seen in some quarters as a possible successor. It is understood that Jones’ confrontational style chaffed on Mitchell, who arrived in England with his own fearsome reputation in 2018, and that he grew increasingly disillusioned through a miserable Six Nations campaign.
Jones was given a resounding vote of confidence by the RFU after their worst ever finish. An autumn fixture list against the world champions South Africa, Australia and Tonga now looms large. First, Jones must reassemble his coaching team. As well as Gleeson, the former Wales wing Mark Jones, who only joined Worcester Warriors this year, has been identified as a possible defence coach.
For Wasps, Mitchell’s appointment will comes as a considerable coup. Discussions with the former All Blacks head coach began four weeks ago and, with the club due to move into their new training ground in the coming weeks, will count as a significant statement of intent. “We are thrilled to add John to the coaching group for this season,” Wasps head coach Lee Blackett said. “He brings a wealth of knowledge and will only improve our playing department.
“Once we knew John was available, we prioritised getting him back to Wasps. Finding somebody of John’s calibre at both an international and domestic level is rare. He fits the profile we have been looking for, adding to our talented group of coaches.
“John’s primary role will be to lead the attack, but his breadth of top-level experience will see him assist on a number of levels. He understands Wasps having worked here before and his passion for the club and improving our players shone through from the start. The support from the board in making this happen demonstrates the ambition of this club.”