England fans were given the news on Thursday that defence coach John Mitchell has signed a deal with the Rugby Football Union to keep him in his role until 2021.
The news also came with the confirmation that Eddie Jones will also remain in his position as head coach until 2021, which had been expected.
Mitchell has clearly made an impact since teaming up with England last summer, as they were at their lowest point under Jones. He teamed up with the Australian after England had finished fifth in the 2018 Six Nations and had lost a summer series against South Africa.
The subsequent autumn internationals saw a marked difference in the England team, as did the 2019 Six Nations where England’s attritional defence came to the fore. It was only in the 38-38 draw with Scotland that England’s fragility was exposed. Nonetheless, Mitchell’s influence was certainly noticed.
However, some fans still feel that his new deal is a risk ahead of a World Cup, as England’s performance in Japan should be what determines whether he gets a new contract or not. This would leave all parties involved in an awkward situation after the World Cup should England perform in the same way they did in 2015.
England made a similar mistake in 2014, where Stuart Lancaster was given a contract lasting until 2020, which obviously never came to fruition as he left his post just over a year later. The fear here is that history could be repeating itself. This is what the fans have said:
Extending a coaches contract just before a World Cup ALWAYS goes well.
— Owain Glynd?r (@IgtIan) June 13, 2019
Until we get knocked out in the group stages and we throw that all out.
— Matthew Wilkinson (@1MattWilkinson) June 13, 2019
John Mitchell, England’s defence coach, has been handed a two-year extension to his contract by the Rugby Football Union, putting the New Zealander in a strong position to succeed Eddie Jones as national head coach.@TelegraphSport
Didn’t RFU extend Lancaster’s contract too
— Stephen Phillips (@StevePhillipsXV) June 12, 2019
What is also a concern among fans is whether Mitchell is being lined up to replace Jones as head coach in 2021. While he has done a marvellous job under Jones, some are questioning whether he will be able to step up to the head coach.
Mitchell’s record as a head coach is not particularly flattering, and with the wealth of talent that the Premiership has currently such as Mark McCall, Rob Baxter and former Northampton coach Jim Mallinder, some fans feel England could be best served looking towards these.
Does this mean that the RFU has decided to not look for an Englishman (or a certain Northern Irishman!) to replace Eddie Jones? Hope not – Jones has said he wants to bring through a home-based replacement. https://t.co/Wv1MtATv6N
— Mark Sutton (@MarkSutton3110) June 13, 2019
Pleased to see the back of Jones but Mitchell as his replacement? You serious?
— Cris Bellamy (@crisbellamy66) June 13, 2019
?And there was me thinking Jim mallinder was next in line.
— Craig (@hhammyhamilton) June 12, 2019
The emphasis during Jones’ tenure with England has been to create a succession plan for the years after his departure. This may be the first sign of that plan, but it has not pleased everyone.
WATCH: Part one of the two-part RugbyPass documentary on what fans can expect in Japan at this year’s World Cup
Sign up to our mailing list here and we’ll keep you up to the minute with weekly updates from the world of rugby.