Simon Middleton, the former Pontefract RUFC coach and Castleford Tigers, Leeds Carnegie and Knottingley RUFC player, has been appointed to a newly created role of combined England Women’s rugby union head coach.
The 48-year-old will oversee both the England women’s XVs and sevens programmes.
In a change to the previous structure which saw the XVs and sevens programmes run by two head coaches, Middleton will take overall responsibility allowing for greater alignment between both national women’s performance programmes.
Middleton, who is the current England women’s sevens head coach, will be assisted in this role by three coaches across the XVs and sevens programmes who will report directly into him.
The RFU have now opened the recruitment process for the following national coaching positions; a XVs Lead Coach who will work in conjunction with Middleton to set the technical and tactical direction of the XVs programme and lead on the delivery of the programme and a XVs Assistant coach. Former England scrum-half Susie Appleby will stay on in her consultancy role as England sevens assistant coach.
Middleton joined the RFU in February 2014. He coached Leeds Carnegie from 2000-2011 working alongside Stuart Lancaster, Neil Back and John Callard. During his tenure he helped Leeds reach the Premiership in 2001 and 2006 and secure Heineken Cup qualification in the 2002-2003 season. As well as running the England Women’s Sevens programme, Middleton was the backs coach at the 2014 Rugby World Cup.
RFU Head of Performance Nicola Ponsford (Women) said: “We have reviewed the structure for the women’s programme, and with the focus on getting the best from both XVs and Sevens, we have recognised the need to appoint a Head Coach who sits across both of our international programmes. This appointment will ensure full integration across the Elite Playing Squad.
“This role is a natural progression for Simon, who is already fully emerged in the sevens and XVs programmes through his current role and working at the 2010 and 2014 Rugby World Cups of which he 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 XVs 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 added: “I am coming into this role when women’s rugby is in a great place. 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 XVs and Sevens programmes more closely it will be critical to us achieving our goals.”
Middleton, who is on a fixed term contract that will run until the end of 2017, will take up this post following the conclusion of the Sevens World Series in May.