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Rugby | SA Rugby

Mitchell cleared to return, say reps



John Mitchell will meet with management at SA's Lions rugby team on Friday in a bid to return as coach of the relegated Super Rugby outfit after his representatives said he had been cleared of misconduct.

Mitchell's Australia-based agents, Fordham Management, said on Thursday the uncompromising former New Zealand coach wanted to return to work with the Lions as soon as Friday.

The Lions confirmed Mitchell would meet with management "to discuss the way forward," but declined further comment and were yet to publicly release the findings of an internal disciplinary hearing into players' complaints of harsh treatment by Mitchell despite it concluding on Monday.

Fordham Management said Mitchell had been exonerated and intended to return to his role with the Lions, South Africa's 2011 Currie Cup winner, despite him recently being appointed to the management board at English Premiership club Sale.

"John is elated with the outcome and feels that his position and reputation as an international coach has been fully vindicated," Fordham Management said.

Mitchell had appeared on his way out at Johannesburg's Lions having been suspended in June after players gave a list of grievances to the team president, complaining of the training methods employed by the former All Black. Mitchell also had a sour exit from Australia's Western Force in 2010 with players unhappy with him, but turned the struggling Lions into South African champions last year in his first full season.

While he was suspended, the Lions were relegated from Super Rugby in August by the South African Rugby Union after finishing bottom of the standings.

Last week he was appointed to the management board at Sale.

But the Lions said last month they were not advertising for a new coach, hinting that Mitchell could return to his job.

Despite his representatives saying he was "looking forward to his return to the club tomorrow," Mitchell's reinstatement would leave an uncomfortable atmosphere at the Lions after players complained that the New Zealander used abusive language toward them and forced some to train and play with injuries. Mitchell denied the accusations.

Fordham said Mitchell's lawyers were already in discussions with team representatives "to address the resolution of certain underlying issues that gave rise to the complaints and to discuss Mitchell's future with the club."

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