Six Nations 2015: Simon Middleton to take charge of England Women

Former Leeds Carnegie coach to combine sevens role by taking charge of the 15-a-side team as RFU shake up coaching structures

The Sport Review staff
By The Sport Review staff

Simon Middleton has been appointed as England Women’s new head coach, following the surprise departure of Gary Street.

Middleton, 48, is the current England Women’s sevens head coach and was one of Street’s assistants during their successful Women’s Rugby World Cup-winning campaign last year.

Being part of the team that won the World Cup last year was the pinnacle of my career, but we want England Rugby to continue to have those successes.

Simon Middleton

Street led England Women to five successive Six Nations crowns between 2008 and 2012 and back-to-back World Cup finals in 2010 and 2014, but unexpectedly left the job just weeks before the start of this year’s campaign, with Nicky Ponsford, the RFU’s head of performance (women), taking interim charge.

England lost 13-0 to Wales in their opening match before bouncing back with a win over Italy and they travel to Ashbourne this week to take on 2013 Grand Slam champions Ireland.

In a restructure of the current coaching set up, Middleton will combine his current role alongside the 15s role.

“I am coming into this role when women’s rugby is in a great place,” Middleton said.

“It is a really exciting time to be involved. For me personally, this is a fantastic opportunity and a challenge I am really looking forward to.

“Being part of the team that won the World Cup last year was the pinnacle of my career, but we want England Rugby to continue to have those successes.

“I am sure these new coaching roles will attract some great calibre candidates and by integrating the 15s and sevens programmes more closely it will be critical to us achieving our goals.”

Prior to joining the Rugby Football Union a year ago and taking on the sevens programme and 15s World Cup backs jobs, Middleton was a coach at Leeds Carnegie from 2000-2011, where he worked along current England men’s coaches Stuart Lancaster, Neil Back and John Callard.

This role is a natural progression for Simon, who is already fully immersed in the 15s and sevens programmes through his current role.

Nicky Ponsford

He helped Leeds reach the Premiership in 2001 and 2006 and secure Heineken Cup qualification in the 2002/03 season.

He will be assisted in his new combined role by three assistant coaches across the 15s and sevens programmes, who will report directly to him.

The RFU have opened the recruitment process for a 15s lead coach, who will work with Middleton, and a 15s assistant coach.

Former England scrum-half Susie Appleby remains with England Women’s sevens team in her consultancy role as assistant coach.

“We have reviewed the structure for the women’s programme, and with the focus on getting the best from both 15s and sevens, we have recognised the need to appoint a head coach who sits across both of our international programmes,” said Ponsford.

“This appointment will ensure full integration across the Elite Playing Squad.

“This role is a natural progression for Simon, who is already fully immersed in the 15s and sevens programmes through his current role and by working at the 2010 and 2014 Rugby World Cups, and has done a fantastic job.

“In his new role as head coach, he will be supported by a sevens assistant coach and two new coaches we are recruiting into the 15s programme. They will report directly into Simon.

“This is a really exciting move to strengthen the overall performance programme and it will ensure we get the best out of the players with a long-term view of their development.”

Middleton has agreed a fixed-term contract that will run until the end of 2017 and he will take up his new role at the conclusion of the Women’s Sevens World Series in May.

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