Drew Mitchell relishing third World Cup chance

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

As Australia worked its way through the 2011 World Cup knockout phases, Drew Mitchell was watching on from the United States.

His campaign was cut short after a hamstring injury against Russia in their pool matches and the winger was on the first plane out, as Australia was ultimately knocked out in the semis.

Two seasons later, he signed with Toulon, knowing that then it meant the end of his Wallabies career.

And yet, on Sunday, he became Australia’s most prolific World Cup try-scorer, with his 12th Cup try, surpassing former Wallaby fullback Chris Latham.

It’s not a record of which he was acutely aware but it was one he thought was out of his reach after 2011, before the change to ARU eligibility this year.

“I just hope there’s a bigger outcome for the group and after this campaign we can look back on far greater things,” he said.

“When I’m old and I’ve got kids and they’re beating me around the backyard, then I can just tell them about that or something.

“It’s nice but as an outside back, you always like scoring tries, right?

“It’s (breaking the record) not something I went out there with the intent of doing, it’s just the end result of some good work from the boys up front.”

Drew Mitchell's 2011 Rugby World Cup was cut short by injury. Photo: Getty Images

Mitchell’s third World Cup has been a totally different experience to the first two - one as a 23-year-old when Australia was knocked out in the quarter-finals and then his premature departure from the 2011 New Zealand cup.

It’s a chance he wasn’t expecting but he is cherishing the opportunity to don the Wallabies jersey as one of five players in his third World Cup.

“It’s really special for me to be back in a World Cup,” he said.

“I just really enjoy everything that the World Cup is. It’s not just sort of that 80 minutes out there on the field.

“It’s a good atmosphere, there’s a good vibe around the place and to be involved in a third one - I didn’t think I was going to get the chance to and it’s a pretty special moment.”

This time around, he’s seemingly in the pecking order behind Adam Ashley-Cooper and Rob Horne.

There would be few opportunities bigger than playing England at Twickenham in what is effectively a sudden-death World Cup pool match but Mitchell is pragmatic about what this week could bring.

“It’s a World Cup, you want to be involved in all of (the matches),” he said.

“I just want to enjoy tonight, though.

“It’s important for me to enjoy the achievement of winning a Test match, I think that’s really important for us and we’ll worry about next week starting tomorrow morning.

Whichever way the dice rolls for Mitchell when Wallabies coach Michael Cheika decides his team to face England, the 31-year-old will accept it.

“We’re all competitive animals but at the same time there’s something bigger than us and we’ve got a nation at home that’s really supportive and they want to see us do well,” he said.

“I think if you’re selfish enough to think it’s about you then you’re not in it for the right reasons.

“You want to be involved but the moment you’re told you’re not, you’ve still got a role to help the boys prepare.”