He may have woken up on the couch with a full day of training ahead of him. But when he leaves his apartment in Hermosa Beach and sails past palm trees, Tom Mitchell finds it hard to be anything but optimistic.
Welcome to LA, where the England men’s sevens and captain of Team GB will seize an opportunity with the Giltini’s from Major League Rugby.
“This move was on the radar for the first time in 2020,” says Mitchell Rugby World. “Back at the Vancouver Sevens, the last event before Covid hit, I was talking to Stephen Hoiles, now the head coach in LA, who was then involved with Australia Sevens. We just had a very casual conversation. He told me he was getting involved with this new franchise and I thought that sounded great.
Related: Making Rugby a Success in Los Angeles
“I’ve always wanted to satisfy my hunger for world experience with rugby and this sounded like one of the better ones. But when the Olympics were moved up by a year (from 2020 to 2021), I spoke to Hoilesy and said I want to do the Olympics, I want to continue this journey that we’ve been working on. So I wasn’t really in touch with him for a long time, and when I came back from Tokyo in August, I just started the conversation again.
“To be honest, I was in a somewhat strange place after Tokyo. There were, of course, many emotions. I was injured. There were many question marks. I was like, ‘Maybe I should actually stop here for the day’. You know, I’d had a good career. Maybe the Olympics was a nice way to end and I really considered just quitting. But then I realized I still wanted to play rugby. And I thought, ‘Well, don’t sit on your ass and expect things to fall in your lap or just feel sorry for yourself.’ I got in touch with Hoilesy again and luckily there was still an opportunity.”
There are several elements that make the move particularly exciting. First, there is recent success, after Giltinis won it all in their first-ever season in the MLR. Then there is the opportunity to play with some exceptional players such as Matt Giteau and Dave Dennis. But there is also the feeling of taking on a challenge.
Mitchell and wife Flo left a good set up near the mother-in-law, which provided childcare for their nine-month-old. They didn’t know anyone in LA outside the team. But they knew they had made the right choice when Hoiles himself picked the family up from the airport, with a car seat for the little one ready to go too. The playmaker is ready to get started.
Mitchell underwent surgery after a knee injury at the Olympics and isn’t expected to be back on the field until March. But when he does, he’s excited to use a few other weapons in his arsenal. After all, he has spent the last decade as a sevens specialist. And he’ll have two seasons with the Giltinis to roll out, with full-back a god option for him.
The MLR season also has plenty of room on either side to accommodate other opportunities. And, as Mitchell explains, maybe the sevens chapter of his career isn’t over yet.
Related: Argentina Win Bronze Medal Against Team GB at Olympic Men’s Sevens
“The Giltini’s are very excited when it comes to seven talent. And given the nature of the season here, they are very open to the opportunities that can arise for guys involved in sevens as well. I’m not looking too far ahead – right now I’m just trying to get fit and get on the pitch – but of course there are a few tournaments coming up in the summer which would be interesting to get involved in.
“There’s a part of me that doesn’t feel like I’m completely done with sevens because of the way the Olympics turned out for me anyway. I would like to tell a slightly different story. As for rugby, getting injured halfway through that tournament, with no crowd… It would be nice to do it a little differently.”
Never say never. If you are open to new avenues, you can create brand new stories. And sometimes, if you’re lucky, those avenues are lined with palm trees.
Download the digital edition of Rugby World straight to your tablet or subscribe to the print edition to get the magazine delivered to your door.
Follow Rugby World on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.