Six Nations 2021: England defence coach John Mitchell eyes tackle height discipline ahead of Wales clash

John Mitchell does not want England’s players to be deterred from making dominant tackles despite the recent spate of red cards.

Five dismissals scarred the weekend’s round of Gallagher Premiership action while two players have been sent off in the Guinness Six Nations, Ireland’s Peter O’Mahony and Zander Fagerson of Scotland.

It comes amid an ongoing crackdown on dangerous play, especially involving the head, as the game looks to reduce instances of concussion.

England resume their Six Nations title defence against Wales in Cardiff on Saturday mindful of the need to win the battle on the gainline, with defence coach Mitchell wanting to find a balance amid the zero-tolerance approach to any challenge involving the head.

“The only thing we can control is making sure we are disciplined in our practise in terms of the height of our tackles,” Mitchell said. “That gives players a better chance to not be sanctioned, but ultimately you still really want to be dominant in your contact.

“The one way around it is that we continue to practice tackle dominance in the best possible way that is going to give the players the best chance of not receiving sanction.

“We can’t control the mitigating circumstances for slipping or sudden changes from high to low, so it’s a matter of making sure we practise the right height.

“It’s not something we paint up as a big picture and say: ‘Hey guys, look out for this’. That approach can be quite negative. Players take responsibility for their careers. They understand there are consequences, so for us it’s more about the practice of our tackle.”

Wales have opened the Six Nations with narrow wins against Ireland and Scotland, albeit while playing against 14 men on both occasions.

Even so, head coach Wayne Pivac appears to have steadied the ship after his first year in charge produced a six-Test losing run and they are one of only two teams still capable of winning the Grand Slam, alongside France.

Mitchell is relishing the build-up to the contest and the match itself at the Principality Stadium as England hit the road for the first time in this year’s tournament, and is impressed with what he has seen from the Welsh in their two opening games.

“A Wales Test week is one of the best and I’ve been through a few of them,” Mitchell said. “They’re extremely competitive and require us to work really, really hard for each other.

“It’s one of those occasions that means a lot to both countries and the players. It’s something that countries can get behind. Both countries have had sustained success, but none of that really matters when it comes to playing against each other.

“Wales are playing really well. They’ve got good balance to their game and are more aggressive. Wayne’s been in the game a long time and you can clearly see his philosophy come through in terms of playing the game at speed and wanting to move the ball.”

“Like any good coach, you have to learn quickly at the highest level when you don’t get things right. You have to take your hat off to him because at the moment they’re playing really good rugby.”


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