England defence coach John Mitchell believes there will be tweaks introduced around the breakdown that will see rugby create more continuity and dilute the contestability that has affected the attacking side of the sport, especially in northern hemisphere Test games in recent weeks.    


Test rugby in Europe has come in for massive criticism for its low frills conclusion to the 2020 Six Nations and well as the generally dull fare on offer in the Autumn Nations Cup. 

As the England defence coach, Mitchell is partly responsible for this attacking malaise that has many fans complaining about a lack of entertainment, but he feels it won’t take much to loosen up the game and ensure people get to see a more enjoyable spectacle.  

Video Spacer

Video Spacer
England have started preparations for next Sunday’s Autumn Nations Cup final

“Experience informs me that the game tends to go in cycles,” said Mitchell ahead of next Sunday’s Nations Cup final featuring England versus France, a match where he claimed Eddie Jones’ squad had no other injury concerns following the loss of Jonathan Joseph.    

“It has been quite a defensive cycle for a period of time generally after World Cups, there are some tweaks to make sure that attack prevails. I’m sure that will follow at some point. When you get closer to a World Cup you go back into a defence cycle so I’m sure we will get some freedom for attack to present itself again. When that will be I’m not sure. 

“There is a number of people talking about certain areas that can be fixed or tweaked to create more fluency in attack. The game always has a few tweaks here and there to make sure we calibrate towards the right balance of exciting football versus contestability.


“It’s just small tweaks around the breakdown (that are needed). The breakdown is always the area where you either create continuity or contestability. Suddenly the game is highly contestable. 

The tweaks that we had just after the World Cup, there was probably a real feeling that the game might get a bit more fluent as a result and present more continuity but it hasn’t I guess, it has created more contestability. Clearly, that is an area where they are going to have to spend most of their time in order to get the balance right.”

Attack play that entertained supporters used to be all the rage in professional rugby, Mitchell recalling a time when it was written into a performance he was given while working in Super Rugby at the turn of the millennium.  

“It’s amazing. I remember when I was first contracted for Super Rugby almost 20 years ago, one part of my performance review was around the style of football. The arrival of Super Rugby was very much on the premise of creating the most attacking football in the world. 


“I’m not sure whether we will get back to those days of exceptional or extraordinary scores, I don’t think that is good for the game either. But if we just create some simplicity around the breakdown then we can really move forward. 

“The game is still good at the moment. It’s like anything in life, you will have right and left wing thinking so it really depends where you sit, but having been in the game for a while and having also coached attack you sort of understand where we have got to get the balance right.”

Mailing List

Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.

Sign Up Now