Mitchell's plan to mould Cipriani
John Mitchell is poised to take control of the Sale Sharks once he cuts ties with the Lions, and has a special plan for Danny Cipriani.
John Mitchell is poised to take control of the Sale Sharks once he cuts ties with the Lions, and he has a special plan for Danny Cipriani.
Mitchell played and coached at Sale in the mid-nineties, and after spending last weekend with director of rugby Brian Redpath he is expected to join the struggling Premiership side in some capacity once his contract with the Lions is eventually terminated.
The Sharks had originally been looking for a forward coach to turn their season around, but Mitchell made it clear that if he does rejoin his former club, he will be leading from the front and taking control in characteristic style.
This means that the role of former Gloucester boss Redpath may have to be revised if the controversial Mitchell, who faced player revolts at both the Western Force and the Lions, is to sign a contract.
"Teams can only have one leader. We'll determine that when the time is right. The team certainly won't have two leaders. There's always got to be one leader. It's about getting a clear message across," he told the Telegraph.
Mitchell said that he makes no apologies for his direct style, as he believes that it is a clear strength of his which will be integral to making a positive change at Sale.
"I'd like to think that I'm a strong character, but when you are like that you are either seen as a freedom fighter or as a terrorist. You've got to have uniqueness as a coach. I make no excuses for my leadership. I am not employed to be a manager, I'm employed to be a leader," he said.
Mitchell said that in order to make the most of mercurial flyhalf Danny Cipriani's "special" talents, he will seriously consider bringing his former England mentor Brian Ashton in to perform a consultancy role with the Sharks.
"Flyhalves like Cipriani, with his exceptional talent, need to be encouraged," said Mitchell.
"You cannot afford not to. From what I've seen of him he is quite special. He needs to be shown leadership. I know Brian Ashton very well and I know he and Danny go back a long way and are close.
"I am sure if things work out with Sale then I will be calling Brian. It would be my responsibility to get the best out of the players we have. It is a question, I would think, of clearing Danny's head and getting his focus right. He seems to have had a lot of people telling him what to do and turning his head," he added.
Mitchell explained that the key for Cipriani and the Sharks to unlock their potential will be to make a mental shift.
"By nature players like Cipriani are gamblers, that's why they play in the position they do, they like to take risks, try things.
"They live in a bubble. Sometimes with players like Danny too much emphasis by coaches is placed on what they cannot do, rather than what they are really good at and what their strengths are."
The former All Blacks coach said that the secret to success in the Premiership is making sure that the players are prepared to put their bodies on the line, and warned that only the highest standards of discipline would be good enough for him.
"The Premiership is a tough, brutal competition with a little bit less ball movement so you need a player group that's prepared to enjoy an arm-wrestle. I feel that I can get the best out of people when I challenge them.
"If people are not prepared to shift in their actions then I will go and find someone else. That is the way it works.
"I am also prepared to work things through with a player but ultimately, players have to develop self-awareness to become better professionals. Ninety percent of players rely on the programme. The best ones are the ones who become self-aware and drive themselves.
"Players have got to realise that they are just ordinary men and they are very fortunate to be in a professional career," he said.