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Last Updated: Monday, 17 November, 2003, 10:28 GMT
All Blacks back coach Mitchell
New Zealand coach John Mitchell
Mitchell insists he is not about to quit
Several New Zealand players have leaped to the defence of under-fire coach John Mitchell in the aftermath of their World Cup semi-final defeat to Australia on Saturday.

The All Blacks were outplayed in a game many expected them to win, going down 22-10 to the Wallabies in Sydney.

And the blame has been laid to rest at Mitchell's door by New Zealand media and public alike.

But prop Kees Meeuws insisted that a kneejerk reaction, similar to the one that resulted in the exit of coach John Hart after New Zealand lost to France in the 1999 semi-final, would not benefit All Black rugby.

"It comes down to one bad game that the players didn't step up to," said Meeuws.

"Last time they chopped heads, but they've got to give these guys a chance.

The New Zealand public have been treated as idiots
Former All Black coach Alex Wyllie

"After '99 there were some pretty ridiculous things going down. Hopefully the public have learnt from that."

Reserve hooker Mark Hammett added: "I would back him [Mitchell] to the hilt, he's been absolutely outstanding.

"We played a bad game on Saturday night, but those guys [the coaching staff] can't get out there and play the game. We do feel that we've let them down."

Under Mitchell the All Blacks won the Tri-Nations and defeated Australia in the Bledisloe Cup this year.

But Thursday's third place play-off match against France in Sydney may be Mitchell's last in charge after the defeat to Australia ended their World Cup dreams.

"Our execution was poor and we did not deserve victory," said Mitchell.

"There are no excuses. We didn't get it right. I feel sorry for the fans in New Zealand but we feel twice as bad."

Mitchell insisted he was not about to quit, saying: "I love coaching. There's no hint of me handing in my resignation.

"That's up to my employers and the person they want to take New Zealand rugby forward in 2004.

"I'm accountable for this team and that performance."

But former All Black coach Alex Wyllie told The Press newspaper in Christchurch: "The New Zealand public have been treated as idiots, the people who supported them have been left out in the cold.

"As a professional team, they acted like amateurs and it's not doing the game a lot of good."





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