BOULDER, Colo. – USA Rugby has announced the hiring of John Mitchell as Head Coach of the Men’s Eagles. Mitchell has been signed to a four-year contract, effective immediately.
Born in Hawera, New Zealand, Mitchell appeared in six matches with the All Blacks, captaining the team on three occasions. Mitchell also played in 134 matches as a member of Waikato on the North Island of New Zealand. Mitchell’s storied career with Waikato consisted of 86 matches as captain, 67 tries scored and numerous milestone victories, including a 1992 National Provincial Championship title.
Mitchell commenced his coaching career with Fraser Tech, New Zealand before moving to England as player/coach at Sale RFC from 1996 to 1999. In 1997, Mitchell was named England assistant coach under Sir Clive Woodward and was responsible for the development of the forward pack that went on to win the 2003 World Cup. In this period, he was also an assistant coach for the Wasps, working with the then Director of Rugby, Nigel Melville, in 1999 and 2000.
Mitchell returned to New Zealand in 2000 and was appointed Chiefs head coach, finishing sixth in the 2011 Super 12 Championship. In October 2001, Mitchell became the youngest ever head coach of the world famous New Zealand All Blacks. Under his leadership, the All Blacks won the Tri-Nations in 2002 and 2003, and regained the Bledisloe Cup in 2003. New Zealand took third at the 2003 World Cup, with Mitchell finishing his stint as head coach with an 86%-win record (25-1-2).
In 2011 Mitchell was awarded South African rugby coach of the year after taking the Golden Lions to the Currie Cup Championship for the first time in 12 years. In December 2012, Mitchell consulted to Sale Sharks before turning down an offer to become Director of Rugby.
“I am excited about putting my strengths into play and taking on this role to transform USA Rugby into a stronger unit by the end of 2019,” said Mitchell. “For me personally, this is a very powerful nation that has an immense audience for this amazing sport.
“Having worked previously with [USA Rugby CEO] Nigel Melville, and knowing his level of experience and knowledge in all aspects of the game, I am confident in my decision to take on this role. I know I will have the necessary support and stability a head coach requires.”
USA Rugby CEO Nigel Melville said: “Following our review of the Eagles performances at the 2015 Rugby World Cup, we decided to make changes to the program and are delighted that John has agreed to lead the development of the Eagles in our next World Cup cycle. Having worked with John at Wasps in 1999 and 2000, I have an intimate understanding of John’s strengths and the value that he can bring to the Eagles program. John is an outstanding coach with experience at all levels of the game who will develop a strong team culture, focus on the basics of the game and bring fresh ideas where they are most needed. John will also work closely with our domestic elite coaches and age grade teams.”
Mitchell’s first match as Eagles Head Coach will come against fifth ranked Argentina in the inaugural Americas Rugby Championship February 6 in Houston, Texas. Mitchell plans to meet with players and coaches in the coming weeks to determine the next steps towards building toward a bright future.