Mitchell slams Aussie rugby culture

Date published: October 7 2014

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Former Force coach John Mitchell has offered an unfavourable comparison of Australia’s rugby culture in his autobiography.

Former All Blacks, Western Force and Lions coach John Mitchell has offered an unfavourable comparison of Australia’s rugby culture in his recently-released autobiography, “Mitch – The Real Story.”

Mitchell’s coaching career spanned many years, several teams and various countries. He was assistant to England coach Clive Woodward for four years, he took charge of the All Blacks and the Chiefs in New Zealand, the Western Force in Australia and the Lions in South Africa.

Mitchell’s hard-nose approach didn’t always sit well with the players under his command but he is in a unique position to compare the coaching environments in the countries he has worked in.

“One thing I picked up is that Australian players like to take ownership quickly. They don’t have much respect for authority and constantly challenge you to relinquish your leadership, even when it involves ideas and strategies,” wrote Mitchell in a chapter dealing with his premature departure from Perth.

“This is very different from the ethos I have found in New Zealand and South African rugby.

“It might be because the playing group in Australia is comparatively so much smaller. There are only seven schools in Brisbane where rugby union is played and two private schools competitions in Sydney. The schools in Perth are new to the game.

“So there is a self-preservation instinct, in the sense that they see selection as more important than their development. Australian players always need to be selected to play and there is a greater awareness or rival codes, such as rugby league and Australian rules football.

“The Players’ Association in Australia is also extremely influential, and the player unions that exist within the teams are much more prominent in Australian sides than elsewhere.

Nathan Sharpe was the Western Force captain and he was highly respected. He is a good man, but he did not always communicate the difficult decisions he and I had to make to the team.

“I believe team leaders should be an extension of the management group and should represent the management to the players. They may agree or disagree when you meet, but, when they leave the meeting, they must be in agreement and take the consensus to the team.

“Nathan was adept at raising player issues with me, but he was not so good the other way round and didn’t communicate what I needed to be passed on to the players.”

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