Former New Zealand coach John Mitchell has demanded an immediate improvement after taking up the post of director of rugby at struggling Sale Sharks.
The 48-year-old was named on the club's new rugby strategy management board as part of a coaching restructure a month ago but has only arrived in the country this week. It had been unclear exactly what role Mitchell would play because at the time of the announcement he was still head coach at South African side Golden Lions, with whom he was involved in a legal wrangle.
Mitchell was suspended by the Lions following allegations of misconduct but cleared his name earlier this month and was then released from his contract. That freed him up to return to Sale and he now takes on the responsibility of trying to ensure they avoid relegation from the Aviva Premiership. Mitchell said: "The reality is we are in this situation. We have got to sustain Premiership rugby."
The Sharks are five points adrift at the foot of the table after winning just one of their first nine games.
Mitchell, who was Sale player-coach in the late-1990s, added: "I would like to see some of the players improve their desire and I think collectively we have got to improve as a team. I would like us to play more pressure football. We are about to come into the wet season and I think ultimately we play too much rugby in our back 50.
"I would like to create more pressure with and without the ball. Clearly our defence is going to have to improve in order to achieve that. We have got to become more of a team and a better team. I think our collective desire will have to improve. I would like to see some players improve individually in that area."
Mitchell, who coached the All Blacks at the 2003 World Cup, effectively replaces Bryan Redpath as the man principally responsible for the first team. Redpath, formerly the club's rugby director, remains as head coach on the four-man strategy management board with chief executive Steve Diamond and businessman Ian Blackhurst.
Former hooker Diamond will now be able to step back having taken a more hands-on coaching role since the revamp was announced, but Mitchell has stressed others will have vital input.
Mitchell said: "I am responsible for the rugby programme now but it is about a coaching group. I think the days are gone where one person has to do everything. But certainly somebody has to be responsible for the rugby programme.
"It allows 'Dimes' to get back into the business of the organisation. I'm fortunate in that I can cover the whole game. I will involved in the (team selection) process and I will have a major decision. It will still be a collective decision but ultimately when we leave the door I will responsible for that decision."
- Sports & Recreation