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'We trialled it seven weeks ago': Wasps reveal new Mitchell role

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

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Lee Blackett has revealed to RugbyPass that ex-England assistant John Mitchell is now doing a different role at Wasps following a change-up in the backroom staff at the Gallagher Premiership club in March. The New Zealander was a headline recruit from Eddie Jones’ England last summer, the 58-year-old arriving in Coventry to become the Wasps attack coach in succession to Martin Gleeson who went in the other direction to link up with the national team.

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However, a mid-March rethink by the director of rugby Blackett has now seen Mitchell become the Wasps defence coach, the area of expertise that he was best known for during his lengthy coaching career before he arrived at the Premiership club. 

This switch resulted in Matt Everard moving from defence to attack and the fruits of the changeover were seen in recent weeks. Wasps won 41-26 at Sale in the Premiership Cup at the end of the first week of the change and Blackett has since stuck with his assistants occupying these different roles. 

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Mike Brown | Rugby Roots
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Wasps have gone on to win three matches in the Premiership, another in the Premiership Cup and another in the European Challenge Cup and the only bone of contention was what happened in the closing 13 minutes last Sunday at London Irish where a 24-point lead was surrendered and the game was drawn 42-all.   

Asked by RugbyPass on Tuesday afternoon for his verdict on the impact of Mitchell as attack coach this season, Blackett opted to come clean rather than bluff his way through an answer. “I’ll give you a bit of an exclusive really if you want,” he explained. 

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“When we went into the Premiership Cup it just felt like we needed to make a few changes, just rotate some of the staff, so John Mitchell has taken hold of the defence and I have talked about a lot of positive things that he has done really well in terms of that. It was Premiership Cup time, we trialled it for a week in terms of just some new ideas, coaches seeing things from a different thing.

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“Asked Matt Everard to do attack and ever since on both fronts we have been positive. We have seen little changes and there have been positives, massive positives that have made us carry on with it.  

“I was trying to keep it quiet but when you started peppering me on Mitch in attack, I can’t keep it quiet, I feel like I would be making things up,” added Blackett, volunteering why he had opted to now reveal the mid-March backroom change at Wasps involving Mitchell that he had kept under wraps. 

“It’s trying to get the best out of everyone. When you have got someone of John Mitchell’s calibre and his experience and knowing his expertise was in the defensive side and how much knowledge, I thought that was a massive advantage. 

“And the more I see of Matt Everard, a guy who has been around this set up for a long time and knows what our attack looks like and knows the players, I couldn’t be more pleased with how that has gone, the way those guys have settled in those different roles. 

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“I actually feel like it gets the best out of those two as well and in the end it gets the best out of the team. We trialled it seven weeks ago and yeah, we have won six out of the seven and the draw at the weekend. I am not saying that is the only reason but definitely, those new ideas that both of them have had in their areas have helped us.” 

Until that late, dramatic kick in the guts at London Irish two days ago. How has Mitchell reacted given the defence remit is now his? “All of us were frustrated. It’s a difficult one, isn’t it? There are things that we have said and I won’t repeat here but there was a lot of frustration about how we were in those final 13 minutes. 

“But I also can’t get away from how good some of the stuff was for the first 67 and you have got to make sure you are looking at that because there were a lot of positives in it but I feel awkward saying it because of the way the last 13 minutes went.”

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