Ireland look to Kiwi care to bear fruit
THE New Zealand influence on Irish rugby at the highest level grows ever stronger. John Mitchell, the former All Black forward, has been appointed as assistant to Ireland coach Murray Kidd for the duration of this season's International Championship.
Mitchell will join the Ireland squad in Atlanta this week for winter training and for the international against the United States next Saturday. He will then travel to Ireland to take up his appointment, which will also embrace duties at least in the short term as an IRFU Development Officer in the Limerick area. There is a vacancy for a Development Officer in the Limerick area since the resignation of David Conway. Although advertised some time ago, the post has not been filled.
Mitchell will be resuming a relationship with Kidd first fashioned in the inaugural season of the All Ireland League, in 1990-91, when Kidd was coach to Garryowen. Mitchell played for the club that season when Garryowen finished runners up in the league, after losing to Cork Constitution in the final match at Dooradoyle.
Mitchell's influence on the Garryowen side was considerable and he is known as an astute tactician. His ability as a leader and tactician was recognised when he captained the All Blacks in the midweek matches on the tour to England and Scotland in the autumn of 1993.
He was an outstanding leader of his provincial side Waikato and captained the team that defeated the Lions in Hamilton in 1993. In addition, under his leadership, Waikato ended Auckland's dominance in the Ranfurly Shield in 1993.
Ireland manager Pat Whelan would have seen, at first hand, Mitchell's ability during his spell with Garryowen. At that time, Whelan was very involved with Kidd in the coaching of the Garryowen side.
Following Whelan's appointment, he was given the authority to bring in any assistance he and Kidd deemed prudent. They have now turned to Mitchell to undertake that task. Mitchell will be working mainly with the preparation of the Irish forwards. IRFU Director of Rugby Development, Ray Southam, who also joined the union from New Zealand (where he worked with the Canterbury Union), had helped out with the forward preparation.