USA Eagles outside half AJ MacGinty has dismissed claims that John Mitchell does not have skills to be England’s new defence coach and predicts his former head coach will be a major success in his new role.
MacGinty, the Sale Sharks No.10, worked extensively with Mitchell while the former All Blacks coach was in charge of the Eagles, guiding the team to automatic qualification for next year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan where, ironically, they will now face England along with France, Argentina and Tonga in Pool C.
Now, Mitchell’s coaching style, which earlier in his career led to player revolts at the Western Force and Golden Lions, will be under the microscope again with England having paid the Bulls £200,000 to get their man released by the South African Super Rugby franchise.
MacGinty told RugbyPass; “John is really detailed with the way he sets up his defence and spent a lot of time in New Zealand with the Hurricanes and their defence which helped them win the Super Rugby title. He likes a really aggressive defence and that will be good for England because the Hurricanes scored a lot of tries off that style. He will bring a lot to the England defence.
“I didn’t have a bad word to say about him when he coached the US and while he is intense you need that when you want to play well at the highest level. You need someone on your case. I read some of the stories about him in previous roles and I found it funny and while I can kind of see it, when he was with us he got the balance right. He was really intelligent and always had something to give you to work on. You were constantly learning and he took my game to the next level. I found him very intense on the pitch but off it we all got on well together.”
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MacGinty discovered early that Mitchell has very strong views on strength and conditioning and puts his players through tough sessions. “Post the last World Cup John came in and made it more professional by setting higher standards and asking more of the guys:” added MacGinty who has played in 20 tests and scored 223 points, including 15 in the win over Scotland.
“His big focus was on fitness levels and about us being able to play for 80 minutes. When you don’t have players involved at the highest level and you come up against teams who have guys playing 30 games of professional rugby a season you end up playing well for 40 minutes and then the opposition clicks into another gear.
“John came in and said our fitness levels weren’t good enough and we had some brutal camps with ball in hand and the metres per minute became the focus which was really interesting to see and it helped us a lot. Our standards became really high and we expected a lot from each other and now in the US, there is a professional league and Gary Gold is building on John’s work. He is adding another dimension to our game.
“With foundations that John laid and Gary’s knowledge, things are going really well. I am sure John will be coming up to Sale to see the England boys and I look forward to catching up with him.”
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