In another shift in his controversial rugby coaching career, John Mitchell has returned to help Eddie Jones mastermind England's journey through to the next World Cup.

That's the plan, and in Mitchell's case, a note of caution is justified about a man who has a lengthy history of coaching appointments and rumbles with his employers.

By most counts, this repeat work with England is Mitchell's 17th coaching gig since he began working with the forwards in a combined player-coach role with his Fraser-Tech club in Hamilton in 1995.


International work followed with Ireland, England, the All Blacks, the United States and now back to England, with club and Super Rugby roles dotted through his 23 years of mixed coaching portfolios.

Some of Mitchell's moves were about moving up the ladder, others about accepting different challenges in the game and the rest when he was asked to walk or chose to leave.

There was a heady opening rush to international coaching life for the former All Black when his first test duty with Ireland in 1996 was followed by four years alongside Clive Woodward and England from 1997 to 2000 before his surprise elevation to coach the All Blacks in 2001 and acrimonious departure in 2003.

That gnarly episode looked as though it would spike Mitchell's international ambitions as he worked through different levels in a mix of coaching and administrative roles in New Zealand, then Australia and South Africa.

As he pushed further west, there were regular rumblings about his ability to connect with players until after a dozen years of international neglect, Mitchell popped up as coach of the US Eagles in 2016 and now as defence coach for Eddie Jones and England.

Is it a case of the notoriously demanding Jones running out of alternatives and turning to the Mitchell who knows the game and has a similar unusual reputation?

Jones had pitched his pleas to others and made it known he preferred an Englishman in the role but those choices had shrunk in a market where about 15 staff have left the edgy environment since Jones took over after the 2015 World Cup.

He made repeated pleas to former assistant Andy Farrell but those were rebuffed.


Mitchell was on the market and had plenty of experience across a number of roles but he came with some warning noises and financial transfer demands from his Blue Bulls employers.

A year out from the World Cup and England and Jones needed to act. They paid the compensation fee, agreed terms with Mitchell and he starts work with the squad this weekend.

That sets up an international reunion of sorts for Steve Hansen and Mitchell in November when the All Blacks play England at Twickenham.

Way back in 2002, Hansen was starting his international coaching with Wales when Mitchell visited with the All Blacks, who won 43-17 in Cardiff, and a year later repeated that disparity with a 55-3 win in Hamilton.

Later in the 2003 World Cup tournament, the All Blacks battled to a 53-37 victory after Hansen's men put the frighteners through them with their game built on exhilarating counter-attack and ball movement.

Fifteen years on, the rematch is looming.