Is 'tough' John Mitchell right for England?
Last Updated: 30/08/18 3:39pm
Will Greenwood and Stuart Barnes have both highlighted John Mitchell’s tough mentality, but is that what England need right now?
Greenwood refers to Mitchell as "spikey, tough and no-nonsense" and while Barnes agrees with his Sky Sports colleague, the former England fly-half questions whether that's what's missing from the England camp and goes on to say that Mitchell wouldn't have been in his top ten list of candidates.
LISTEN: Will Greenwood's Rugby Podcast
Will Greenwood, Stuart Barnes and Rupert Cox discuss the All Blacks' dominance, John Mitchell, and the upcoming domestic season.
The former New Zealand coach is currently under contract with the Blue Bulls but looks to be the man singled out by England head coach Eddie Jones to replace Paul Gustard.
The appointment of the 54-year-old as England's new defence coach seems to be moving closer but Sky Sports News understands remains subject to a financial agreement being reached between the Rugby Football Union and the Blue Bulls.
A move into Jones' team would see Mitchell joining England's elite coaching team for a second time. The Kiwi was forwards coach between 1997 and 2000, where Sky Sports analyst Greenwood experienced his work first-hand.
"He was an extraordinarily tough man. He took the rucking sessions, in the old days when you were allowed to ruck, and I remember them down on the back pitch at Pennyhill Park," recalled the World Cup winner on the new episode of Will Greenwood's Rugby Podcast.
"I turned up as this young Harlequin, just moved to Leicester who worked in the City, drank champagne and wore pink shirts. John Mitchell took one look at me and thought, 'We have to do something about this.'
"He's spikey, he's tough, he's no-nonsense and along the way he has left some baggage behind but I always admired him as a coach in the short time that we worked together, for just under two years.
"I know that if your backs are against the wall then he can improve you, no question."
Barnes echoed Greenwood's perspective on Mitchell's character.
"He is extremely aggressive," said Barnes. "He's a tough nut and it seems to me that it's almost as if Eddie Jones has gone out and said 'He's the mould of person that I want.'"
"How many times has Eddie [Jones] talked about players that he's brought in and said that he's got a bit of gangster, he's got a bit of the mongrel? I think that he's doing this again with John Mitchell and I just think, how many times can you play that trick?
"I don't think, right now, what England need is necessarily real dog because I don't think that England have a problem in terms of their commitment or their willpower."
England's upcoming schedule of autumn internationals, live on Sky Sports, feature four Test matches on consecutive weekends in November against South Africa, New Zealand, Japan and Australia.
The side toured South Africa this summer without a some of their front-line players including captain Dylan Hartley. The hooker, who was given time to fully recover from concussion issues, has featured for Northampton in pre-season and was part of Jones' latest training squad.
Barnes believes that Hartley's re-introduction this autumn may well add an edge back to the national side and questioned the criterion England's head coach may be pushing to the forefront of his mind when appointing a new defence coach.
"Hartley comes back as captain and that gives Jones what he wants there. They [England] have a problem with the accuracy of their game, sometimes in defence and sometimes in attack," said Barnes.
"If you look at John's [Mitchell] record with the Bulls this season they have been frequently torn apart defensively, frequently torn apart.
"So, Eddie Jones is not going on track record, not going on recent CV, he's going on something else and I think that thing is attitude and I'm concerned that Eddie thinks attitude can just take you all the way, it can't."
Barnes speculated as to who else could have added value to the setup.
"I think that the thing that Eddie Jones needs more than anything, and maybe John Mitchell fits the bill here, is someone who will stand up to him.
"To let Shaun Edwards go [back to rugby league], that seemed incredible to me, maybe Shaun was regarded as too strong a personality? I'm not sure. What I am pretty certain of is that John Mitchell wouldn't have been on my list of the top ten."
Barnes' finished his thoughts on the potential appointment of Mitchell with a question.
"If you back Eddie Jones then you have to back John Mitchell there's no doubt about that. The question is, should you still be backing Eddie Jones and that's a different question I guess."