Mitchell lands All Blacks hot seat
October 3, 2001

Former England assistant John Mitchell is the new coach of the New Zealand All Blacks.

Mitchell, who has experience of the international game after a spell as assistant to Clive Woodward in England, has been handed the job until after the 2003 World Cup.

The former All Black replaces Wayne Smith, who originally told the New Zealand Rugby Football Union he no longer wished to continue in the role after fierce criticism of his side during the 2001 Tri-Nations Series before changing his mind. It had been widely expected that Smith would continue in the job.

Chairman of the NZRFU Murray McCaw announced that previous All Black coach Wayne Smith, and his assistant Tony Gilbert, together with current selector Peter Thorburn will choose the All Black squad that takes on Ireland in Dublin on November 17, Scotland at Murrayfield on November 24, and Argentina.

He will be assisted by coaches to be announced at a later date and the squad will continue to be managed by Andrew Martin and his backroom staff.

At the press conference, McCaw said that the All Blacks Coaching Appointments Panel had recommended the Chiefs coach to the Board ahead of the three other interviewed candidates, Wayne Smith, Robbie Deans and Tony Gilbert.

The panel had short-listed the candidates at the weekend and interviewed them on Monday. The Board met on Monday evening rather than waiting until its scheduled monthly meeting of 18 October.

"John Mitchell has the right coaching qualities to steer the All Blacks to victory in the 2003 Rugby World Cup. As an All Black he epitomised many of the qualities that will be required of his players in the next two years if they are to win the Rugby World Cup.John has also used the time since he stopped playing to up-skill himself in coaching. John demonstrated to the panel that he has the right combination of old fashioned All Blacks values and innovation needed to win in the modern game."

McCaw also paid tribute to Smith and Gilbert. "There are not many coaches - or professionals in any other field - who would ask for their jobs to be readvertised as Wayne Smith did. He believes the All Blacks should have the best and this contestable process will ensure that they will.

"Wayne Smith and Tony Gilbert deserve the thanks of all New Zealanders for taking an All Blacks side that was devastated by the 1999 Rugby World Cup semi-final loss and rebuilding them into a team with enormous spirit. They have helped restore the mana of the All Blacks jersey and that is something we should not underestimate.That mana and spirit is something that John can build on as he works towards to the Rugby World Cup."

He concluded, "The panel and Board believe John's support structures are crucial to the All Blacks winning and have asked him to be 'open minded' about his approach."

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