Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 13 November 2019

England coach John Mitchell backs spy claims against New Zealand over 'suspicious' red light

One-time coach of All Blacks suspects former team did have someone watch England's training sessions for the Rugby World Cup semi-final

England defence coach - and former New Zealand head coach - John Mitchell has waded in to the spy saga by suggesting the All Blacks may have been recording their training ahead of the Rugby World Cup semi-final.

England were holding a training session on Tuesday when an unidentified cameraman was spotted in one of the residential buildings overlooking their practice ground in Tokyo.

Security officials with the team looked into the scene after spotting a red light.

Mitchell, New Zealand's coach when they lost a 2003 World Cup semi-final to an Australia side under the guidance of now England coach Eddie Jones, hinted the All Blacks may have been behind the incident.

"If that is what they want to do, and that is the way they want to prepare, good luck to them," he said.

The coach said there was a "suspicious" red light in one of the apartments overlooking their "excellent" training facilities but insisted: "It doesn't really worry me.

"This game is so dynamic now so I don't see any advantage in spying on a team. There is enough pressure at this level without chasing around some blokes that might be in a building with a camera."

Jones also downplayed the incident, which took place just days before the most important match of his four-year spell in charge of England, saying it might have been a Japanese fan.

He said he used to engage in sporting espionage but had not since 2001, as modern technology had made it obsolete.

"You can watch everyone's training on YouTube. There's no value in doing that sort of thing, absolutely zero."

New Zealand have won 33 of their matches against England and the two-time reigning world champions will be strong favourites to triumph this weekend in Yokohama.

But England wing Anthony Watson said the fact several players had been involved in the 2017 British and Irish Lions squad that drew a Test series in New Zealand meant they knew the All Blacks were not an invincible force.

"They're humans at the end of the day," said Watson. "There will be 23 of them and 23 of us on Saturday and they're human beings and rugby players just like us.

Updated: October 23, 2019 10:46 AM

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