England defence coach John Mitchell is to leave the RFU and join the coaching rebuild at Wasps, despite signing a contract extension in February through to the 2023 World Cup.
Mitchell has quit his assistant role to head coach Eddie Jones and will become the new attack coach under Lee Blackett at the Premiership club, although Wasps say Mitchell will operate ‘on a number of levels’.
The surprise departure of the New Zealander, who was the longest-serving assistant within Jones’ staff at Twickenham, leaves England with just one full-time coach to work with Jones two years away from the Rugby World Cup in France.
After attack coach Simon Amor was relieved of his duties following the Six Nations and skills coach Jason Ryles opted against leaving his home and family in Australia due to travel restrictions, the RFU confirmed that a contract for Amor’s successor is close to being finalised and the search for Mitchell’s replacement in ‘well underway’.
Mitchell joined the England set-up in 2018 and will head to the Ricoh Arena with Ed Robinson, who worked with Jones during the Autumn Nations Cup and Six Nations.
“We are thrilled to add John to the coaching group for this season,” said Wasps director of rugby Lee Blackett. “He brings a wealth of knowledge and will only improve our playing department.
“Once we knew John was available, we prioritised getting him back to Wasps.
“Finding somebody of John’s calibre at both an international and domestic level is rare. He fits the profile we have been looking for, adding to our talented group of coaches.
“John’s primary role will be to lead the attack, but his breadth of top-level experience will see him assist on a number of levels. He understands Wasps having worked here before and his passion for the club and improving our players shone through from the start.
“The support from the board in making this happen demonstrates the ambition of this club.”
This was no impulsive decision made by Mitchell, who is reported by RugbyPass to have notified Jones and the RFU of his intention to leave at the start of the year.
It was announced ahead of England’s summer international series that Mitchell would oversee England ‘A’ in their match against Scotland ‘A’, though the match was cancelled due to a Covid-19 outbreak in the Scotland camp.
He previously worked as Wasps assistant coach back in 2000 before returning to his native New Zealand.
The Rugby Paper reported in April that Wasps attack coach Martin Gleeson was to join Eddie Jones’ staff.