x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Mitchell to step down at Force

Former All Blacks coach tells the Australian Super 14 franchise he is has decided to look for a new challenge.

Western Force, the Australian Super 14 franchise, confirmed yesterday that John Mitchell will not be seeking reappointment to coach the club next season. The former New Zealand coach, who has been in charge of the Force since their 2006 foundation year, informed team officials he would stand down when his deal expires at the end of next season. Western Force are at the bottom of this year's Super 14 series having failed to win any of their opening five games. Vern Reid, RugbyWA's chief executive, said in a statement that Mitchell had decided to seek a fresh challenge.

"We will discuss with John the possibility of an ongoing role as we move towards the end of his formal association," Reid said. "John has been a key figure in the establishment of a successful rugby programme at the Western Force. "His high profile as an international coach was a significant drawcard in the formation of our initial squad." Reid said the timing of the announcement would allow the Force ample opportunity to find the best candidate for the head coaching position following the 2011 season.

In 57 games at the helm, Mitchell has guided the Perth-based franchise to 20 wins, four draws and 33 losses. He enjoyed a successful stint with the All Blacks, where he had an 86 per cent winning record before being sacked after failing to lead New Zealand to victory in the 2003 Rugby World Cup. Elsewhere, Mathieu Bastareaud, France's blockbusting centre, has signed his first professional contract with Stade Francais, tying him to the Top 14 club for the next three years.

Stade confirmed that Bastareaud, who moved to Paris from third division Massy in 2007 will remain with them at least until 2013. It completes a remarkable turnaround of fortunes for the powerful French back, who faced the possibility of a lengthy ban last year after he was caught lying about being mugged during France's summer tour of the southern hemisphere. Bastareaud later admitted he had made the story up and had actually hit his head falling over a table in his hotel room in Wellington, New Zealand.

Marc Lievremont, the France coach, surprised many when he included the 21-year-old in his Six Nations squad. But Bastareaud repaid his coach's faith, scoring two tries in France's first match in Scotland and putting in several more impressive performances as Les Bleus went on to lift the Grand Slam. * With agencies