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'Good luck to them' - England don't see any advantage in spying on training

Defence coach John Mitchell understands the pressure the All Blacks come under from home.

ENGLAND DEFENCE COACH John Mitchell said he is not convinced the All Blacks would have learned enough to affect Saturday’s World Cup semi-final if they were spying on England training this week.

England boss Eddie Jones claimed yesterday that someone had been video recording his team training in preparation for the highly anticipated clash in Yokohama this weekend.

Jones said England had noticed a suspicious red light in an apartment overlooking their training pitch.

japan-rugby-wcup-england England at a training session in Japan. Source: Aaron Favila

Mitchell, the former All Blacks boss who now runs England’s defence, followed up by suggesting that the Kiwis won’t have learned much if they were snooping.

“If that is what they want to do, and that is the way they want to prepare, good luck to them,” said Mitchell in Tokyo yesterday.

“We just happened to be training where there are apartments above our tiny two-metre fence, so I’m not sure about what the use of the tarpaulins [which are intended to block vision from outside the pitch] are.

“The facilities have been excellent but it’s an area where people live and there is the odd red light around. There was one up in the corner which was a bit suspicious.

“It doesn’t really worry me. This game is so dynamic now so I don’t see any advantage in spying on a team.

“When I took over the All Blacks in 2001, we had a manager who was highly military and he loved surveying the whole area. To me, you can get too involved in it and create an anxiety in your group. There is enough pressure at this level without chasing around some blokes that might be in a building with a camera.

“We have a really good environment and focus on our work at hand and want to enjoy it as well. We are definitely not a group who wants to increase the anxiety.”

New Zealand native Mitchell will naturally have been central to England’s planning for this fixture, given his understanding of the All Blacks.

england-v-australia-2019-rugby-world-cup-quarter-final-oita-stadium Mitchell with Eddie Jones. Source: PA Archive/PA Images

Mitchell was in charge from 2001 until 2003, so not very recently, but he appreciates exactly how much pressure the New Zealanders come under from their rugby-adoring public.

His All Blacks team lost in the 2003 World Cup semi-finals and while Jones yesterday called the Kiwi media “fans with keyboards” who don’t ask Steve Hansen tough questions, Mitchell has seen the tougher side of that same media.

“I think Steve has been in that post a long time and he has been extremely successful and he is seeking to repeat and has made some changes in the last year,” said Mitchell.

“I think probably the New Zealand media have become very comfortable with Steve’s personality and the way he communicates. He is not too different to Eddie in the sense that he actually has a bit of fun in his media as well.

“I haven’t lived there for a long time but I can only go back on family living back there and it is very much the case that New Zealanders expect the All Blacks to win.

“And it is usually a trauma if they don’t, but also they have got their own legacy to uphold and sustain.

“They are a team of excellence and why they have been so successful, they have managed to increase that excellence and you just look at the way they have evolved since the last World Cup and the last year.

“In saying that, we are excited. We know our strengths and we will prepare and we are looking forward to it. It is contrasting in many ways because we believe in what we do and can’t wait to rip in.”

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella  / Reports from Tokyo

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