John Mitchell will start work as England's new defence guru next month, now that the ex-All Blacks head coach has officially agreed a deal to replace Paul Gustard.

There had been intense speculation that the 54-year-old Kiwi, who was in charge of New Zealand from 2001 and 2003, having worked in Sir Clive Woodward's England set-up, was a target for the role. Sportsmail can confirm that Mitchell has finalised terms with the RFU to the end of next year's World Cup.

It is understood that the union are in negotiations about a compensation payment with the Blue Bulls, the Pretoria-based South African Super Rugby franchise, where Mitchell is head coach.

However, the outcome of that process is regarded as a foregone conclusion and he will move to London next month.


Jones is believed to have held a meeting with Mitchell during England's tour of South Africa in June, with a view to offering him the job that has been vacated by Gustard – who has taken over as head coach at Harlequins.

Bulls coach John Mitchell. Photo / Photosport
Bulls coach John Mitchell. Photo / Photosport

The news that the deal has been done follows closely after Wigan announced that Shaun Edwards, who was also touted as a prime candidate, will return to rugby league after the World Cup, following a decade of service to Wales, under Warren Gatland.

Mitchell was a stalwart in the back row for his home province of Waikato during his playing days. He made a handful of non-cap appearances for New Zealand, before moving to England where his coaching career took off at Sale. He was hired by Woodward as forwards coach in 1997, before returning home in 2000.

After a year back in Hamilton with the Chiefs, he was appointed as head coach of the All Blacks in 2001. Two years later, his side were beaten by Jones's Australia team – the tournament hosts – in the semi-finals of the World Cup. Despite a respectful third-place finish, Mitchell was removed from his post in the aftermath of the tournament.

Since then, he has held a series of jobs in New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and back at Sale. In 2016, he was named as the new head coach of the USA national team, but he only lasted a year before leaving to assume control at the Bulls.

There have been controversies and complaints along the way. Mitchell has long been regarded as an abrasive character, but Jones has evidently accepted the need for another senior figure and strong voice within his set-up.