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The wild and winding road that led Mitchell to America

12:08 PM GMT

It’s taken 12 years but John Mitchell is once again a Test rugby coach. The former All Blacks boss was unveiled in January as the new man in charge of the United States on a four-year deal that will see him take the Eagles through to Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan.

It looks a fine opportunity and one of which Mitchell appears deserving — if one isolates a Test-winning record that stands at a tick over 82 percent. That’s not far behind current All Blacks boss Steve Hansen (91 percent) and 2011 World Cup winner Graham Henry (85.4 percent).

But the road that has led Mitchell to the US has been a wild and winding one, with controversy never far away. Here, we take a look back through Mitchell’s coaching career, beginning with that stint in charge of the All Blacks.

New Zealand (2001-2003)

Mitchell was awarded the New Zealand job after just one season with the Chiefs, the Waikato side finishing sixth in what was then Super 12.

He began his All Blacks tenure with wins over Ireland, Scotland and Argentina, and then reclaimed the Tri Nations from Australia despite failing to recover the Bledisloe Cup the same year.

That particular mission was completed a year later ahead of the World Cup, but a loss to the Wallabies in the semifinals of that tournament marked his final match at the helm of rugby’s biggest brand.

“What happened with the All Blacks? Nothing happened. It was all complete rubbish.”

John Mitchell

Fans pointed to his treatment of All Blacks veterans Christian Cullen, Taine Randell and Jeff Wilson — none of whom featured in the World Cup — as fair cause for his departure, but it was allegations of fractured relationships within the team’s staff and a ‘booze culture’ that ultimately saw Graham Henry take over.

Mitchell addressed the departure in his book, ‘Mitch, The Real Story’, writing: “People often ask me what happened there. I can tell you that nothing happened. It was all complete rubbish. It was probably a figment of the NZRU’s imagination that later just grew legs and they felt they could use it in their campaign against me.

“The situation was blown out of all proportion because the perception it created helped the NZRU with their exit strategy.”

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