John Mitchell joins Sale as director of rugby
Former All Blacks coach John Mitchell has returned to the English game as director of rugby at Sale Sharks, two weeks after being cleared of allegations of misconduct at the Lions.
The 48-year-old Mitchell left his role as head coach of the Johannesburg-based Lions last week following a legal wrangle, which led to him being suspended for five months while an internal disciplinary investigation took place.
He will be tasked with lifting northwest team Sale, where he was player-coach from 1996-98, off the bottom of the English Premiership after winning only one of its first nine matches.
"It's been an arduous process, but I had to get everything cleared so that I could move on," Mitchell said of his dispute with the Lions. "My reputation is still very much intact and also my brand."
Mitchell was moved from head coach at the Lions to a role as technical advisor on a one-year contract, with the deal allowing him to also take up roles with international teams or clubs outside South Africa.
The decision to move Mitchell upstairs was likely taken to avoid him having to work face-to-face with some of the players who instigated an investigation after accusing the New Zealander of misconduct, by allegedly treating them harshly and forcing them to train or play with injuries.
Having been contacted by Sale chief executive Steve Diamond, Mitchell said he was simply waiting for the investigation to run its course before completing the move back to England.
"I mutually agreed with the Golden Lions that they have moved on and emotionally I have moved on," Mitchell said. "That's what I had to get done. It's taken a lot longer than I would have hoped."
Mitchell, a no-nonsense disciplinarian, has had fractious relationships with players before, leaving Australia's Western Force under a cloud in 2010.
He was All Blacks coach from 2001-03 and England assistant coach between 1997-2000.