John Mitchell's playing and coaching career

John Mitchell's playing and coaching career

Following the reports that John Mitchell is set to leave Blue Bulls and fix his eyes on a defence coach role in England, we take a look at the 54-year-old's playing and coaching career so far.


A former back-rower, Mitchell made his name as a number eight whilst playing for provincial side Waikato, eventually being given the captaincy role and leading the side 86 times, scoring 67 tries.

John Mitchell captained Waikato to Ranfurly Shield and NPC success in the early 1990s.

In 1996, Mitchell became Ireland's forwards coach under fellow Kiwi Murray Kidd, which was shortlived as Mitchell left for a three-year spell as player-coach of English club Sale Sharks.

Then Sale Sharks head coach Paul Turner stood down at the end of the 1995–96 season, which opened the gate for Mitchell to take over the reins until 1999 when the club hit a rocky path.

Mitchell's next adventure was as England's forwards coach under Clive Woodward, spending three seasons.

In the wake of England's disappointing 1999 World Cup quarter-final exit to the Springboks, the New Zealander left for home. 

Mitchell has worked with England before when he was part of Sir Clive Woodward's coaching team

He then returned to Hamilton with his young family to coach Waikato B in 2000 and after several years was offered a prestigious Super 12 slot with the Chiefs, strengthening the team to sixth in the table.

In October 2001, the All Blacks handed over their coaching reins to Mitchell, who succeeded Wayne Smith. Mitchell coached New Zealand to the Rugby World Cup semifinal in 2003 when the team was knocked out by hosts Australia. He finished his time as All Blacks coach with a winning percentage of over 80%.

Mitchell’s next major deal was with the Super Rugby team Western Force in Australia and the Lions in South Africa, which both ended controversially. He did, however, win a Currie Cup title with the Lions in 2011, before things turned sour between him and his players, which lead to his suspension. 

In late 2012, the New Zealander was back at Sale Sharks and took his place as Director of Rugby. After only being in charge of the team for one month, he left the club when it was at the bottom of the Premiership table, one point off London Irish, a departure that he explained was personal. Steve Diamond, Bryan Redpath and Pete Anglesea were left to continue the club's battle against relegation.

Mitchell further extended his CV when he was appointed as head coach of the USA team in 2016, accumulating a win-loss record of 7-5 in 12 international tests. In 2017, he also brought the team their first championship since 1924. Under his leadership, the United States were on their longest win streak in over 20 years.

The 54-year-old left the USA Eagles at the end of the 2017 Summer Series and took up an executive of rugby role with the Blue Bulls.

His first season in charge of the Bulls proved a rough ride, with Blue Bulls losing 10 of their 16 games, finishing 12th in the Super Rugby competition.

John Mitchell Coaching Record

  • 1994-1995 – Fraser Tech
  • 1996 – Ireland (Forwards coach)
  • 1996-1999 – Sale Sharks
  • 1997-2000 England (Forwards coach)
  • 1999-2000 London Wasps (Assistant coach)
  • 2000 – Waikato B
  • 2000-2001 – Chiefs
  • 2001-2003 – New Zealand
  • 2004-2005 – Waikato
  • 2006-2010 – Western Force
  • 2010-2012 – Golden Lions
  • 2011-2012 – Lions
  • 2012 – Sale Sharks (director of rugby)
  • 2013-2014 – UKZN (University of KwaZulu-Natal)
  • 2016-2017 – United States
  • 2017 – Bulls and Blue Bulls

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