Craig Mitchell has shown remorse after bar-brawl incident
CRAIG Mitchell has taken full responsibility for the "completely out of character" violent episode in Australia earlier this summer which almost cost him his liberty.
So says his coach at Exeter Chiefs, Rob Baxter, after the events which saw the former Ospreys' prop given a six-month prison sentence, suspended for two years, by Brisbane magistrates and fined £1,100 after punching a man in a bar. Mitchell had been following the Lions tour as a supporter.
Exeter later found him guilty of bringing the club into disrepute and gave him a written warning that should he transgress in a similar way over the next six months, then he could be sacked.
But the club have now drawn a line under the matter and been impressed by how contrite Skewen-raised Mitchell has been.
"Craig has taken full responsibility for his actions," said Baxter.
"He hasn't tried to back down from his responsibility in any way.
"What happened was completely out of character and Craig has shown a lot of remorse.
"All the disciplinary action has been gone through and what's done is done.
"We've never had any issues with Craig. For us, it's all about helping and encouraging him to get on."
Mitchell landed in trouble after some banter over sport got serious after the Lions' first Test victory.
Capped 15 times, he has since spoken of experiencing the "worst week of his life" as he went before magistrates with uncertainty over his future.
But he is doing what he can to make a positive out of a huge negative and recently took time out from pre-season training to address tomorrow's stars of English rugby, relating his experience to 65 of the brightest youngsters in the Aviva Premiership and the Greene King IPA Championship at the Rugby Players' Association's annual academy induction day at Loughborough University, in partnership with the Tom Maynard Trust.
Mitchell told the academy players: "As many people will know, I was involved in an incident out in Australia that ended up in court proceedings and an investigation by my club and the RFU.
"I came along to share my experiences with the boys and make them aware that incidents can happen and it's so important to learn to control yourself in dangerous situations.
"What happened is up there with the worst week of my life and I wanted to stress that the way you react to things is very important being a professional rugby player.
"The support I received from Mark Haslam, of Burton Copeland Solicitors and the RPA, has been unbelievable and I wanted to repay them by talking to the players."
Exeter have been pleased with the way Mitchell has thrown himself into pre-season after the turmoil of early summer.
He featured against the Scarlets in Llanelli last weekend and gave a good account of himself at both tight-head and at loose-head, where he played for a short period in the second half, and Baxter believes the new scrum laws, which take the hit out of the set-piece, could suit the 27-year-old.
"Craig has done what we expected and that's have a really good pre-season.
"He looks big, fit and strong.
"I actually thought he did very well under the new scrum laws. He had ten minutes at loose-head and looked good there as well. Maybe with these new scrum laws he's going to add an extra string to his bow and cover both sides."
Mitchell will hope Wales are as forgiving as his club.
The ex-Neath man missed much of last term through injury, but he has performed solidly for his country in the past and will be keen to feature in Warren Gatland's plans heading towards the World Cup.