Former England flyhalf Stuart Barnes doesn’t believe John Mitchell is the right man to help Eddie Jones’ England side.

The former All Blacks coach joins Jones’ staff as his new defence coach, and Barnes struggles to see where Mitchell will make an impact.

“John Mitchell has experience. I’ll give him that. However, there is not much else in his CV to recommend him,” Barnes wrote in his column for The Times.

“There is the small matter of his never having been a defence coach. But we can override that because, as a head coach, he’ll surely have a decent understanding of all the game’s aspects.”

Mitchell is coming off a disastrous campaign with the Bulls in Super Rugby, where the side conceded 509 points – second most in the competition.

This is Mitchell’s second stint with the English national side. He was forwards coach from 1997 to 2000 before heading back to New Zealand and eventually taking over the All Blacks in 2001.

“His moment to reach for the stars was, without argument, in 2003. The All Blacks, coached by Mitchell, faced Australia, coached by none other than Eddie Jones, in a World Cup semifinal in Sydney. Australia beat New Zealand 22-10.”

Barnes also asked about Mitchell’s unwillingness to base himself in England full time.

“Jones must be mightily impressed to allow a defence coach to live in a different continent. Usually, he wants his regular coaches living in his pocket. It is an astounding concession to make.

“Mitchell is not an inveterate winner. He is not prepared to live in England. He endured a miserable season as far as the Blue Bulls defence was concerned. And he is not a defensive specialist.”

Mitchell responded to the criticism in an interview with The Daily Mail.

“People make mistakes and I have,” Mitchell said. “But there has been success as well. At least I had a good look in the mirror and said that I wanted to get better.”

“I will not shy away from having a strong methodology,” he continued. “The lessons I have experienced will hold me in good stead.”


“I am back coaching at international level and you cannot put a currency on the development I am gaining.”

England will next play in early November when they host South Africa, New Zealand, Japan and Australia in consecutive weeks.

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