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New Sale Sharks boss John Mitchell has demanded an improvement from the team

Last Updated: 29/11/12 2:21pm

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John Mitchell is seeking a drastic improvement after becoming the new director of rugby at Premiership strugglers Sale Sharks.

The former New Zealand coach played for Sale in the late-1990s and he now takes charge with the club five points adrift at the bottom of the table after nine rounds of matches.

First up for him is the visit of fourth-placed Northampton to the Salford City Stadium on Friday and Mitchell is seeking a response from his players as they look to climb the table.

"The reality is we are in this situation. We have got to sustain Premiership rugby," he said.

"I would like to see some of the players improve their desire and I think collectively we have got to improve as a team.

"I would like us to play more pressure football. We are about to come into the wet season and I think ultimately we play too much rugby in our back 50.

"I would like to create more pressure with and without the ball. Clearly our defence is going to have to improve in order to achieve that.

"We have got to become more of a team and a better team. I think our collective desire will have to improve. I would like to see some players improve individually in that area."
John Mitchell

"We have got to become more of a team and a better team. I think our collective desire will have to improve. I would like to see some players improve individually in that area."

Mitchell, who coached the All Blacks at the 2003 World Cup, effectively replaces Bryan Redpath as the man principally responsible for the Sharks first team.

Redpath, formerly the club's rugby director, remains as head coach on the four-man strategy management board with chief executive Steve Diamond and businessman Ian Blackhurst.

Vital input

Former hooker Diamond will now be able to step back having taken a more hands-on coaching role since the revamp was announced, but Mitchell has stressed others will have vital input.

Mitchell added: "I am responsible for the rugby programme now but it is about a coaching group. I think the days are gone where one person has to do everything.

"But certainly somebody has to be responsible for the rugby programme.

"It allows 'Dimes' to get back into the business of the organisation. I'm fortunate in that I can cover the whole game.

"I will be involved in the (team selection) process and I will have a major decision. It will still be a collective decision but ultimately when we leave the door I will responsible for that decision."

Mitchell is not anticipating any problems in working with Redpath. He said: "Bryan is a very thorough, very capable rugby coach. He is a very good thinker on the game.

"I think he has had a lot of pressure put on him because he has been almost on his own.

"We're very fortunate 'Dimes' has got good forward experience. I've come in and offered a few things. Now I am fully involved I can contribute to that coaching group with the experience of Bryan and Steve."

Mitchell was contacted by Diamond earlier this season and initially did some consultancy work for the club before accepting a position.

He is now relieved to be able to come to the Premiership and work free of the acrimony that marred the end of his successful spell with the Johannesburg-based Lions.

Mitchell said: "I was found innocent on all allegations. I could have carried on there for another two years contractually but emotionally, because of the situation I was put through, unfairly in my view, it was time to move on.

"But I was very fortunate to win a Currie Cup for the first time in 61 years with them. Bringing them silverware was a special memory so I hold that very closely.

"I was very fortunate to be able to mutually agree to have the flexibility and become a free agent and now I am standing here."

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