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Middleton to step down

England head coach Simon Middleton to step down after this year’s Women’s Six Nations.

Middleton has enjoyed great success with England, including guiding them to five Six Nations titles and a record 30-match unbeaten run, but the team ultimately fell short in the two World Cup Finals he oversaw as head coach with losses to New Zealand in 2017 and 2022.

He joined the RFU in 2014 and led the England Women Sevens team on the World Series, as well as taking a role as assistant coach for the 2014 Rugby World Cup in France where England were crowned champions.

In 2015, he became Red Roses head coach initially in a joint role with sevens.

Middleton led Team GB Women Sevens where the team finished fourth at the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics before focusing fully on XVs on his return.

As England seek a new head coach, he will lead the team for this year’s Six Nations, which kicks off next month. Forwards coach Louis Deacon and backs coach Scott Bemand will also remain in their roles for the Six Nations.

Middleton said: “Representing England in a coaching or playing capacity must be the pinnacle of any sporting career, and I can’t put into words how proud and fortunate I’ve been to be able to do this for the last nine years.

“Outside of my family, rugby has been my life, giving me purpose, direction, great memories, and even greater friends. Growing up as a lad from Knottingley in Yorkshire I was inspired by the likes of Sir Bill Beaumont, Will Carling and the great England sides of the 70s, 80s and 90s, so to find myself so heavily involved with England in the game I love was a dream come true.

“This job has created a life I’d only ever dreamt of. Hopefully, what we have managed to achieve reflects well. It means the world to me to represent my country and the RFU. With whatever I do, I always work as hard as I can and I can honestly say I’ve never done anything without giving my best, it’s not always been good enough but I have always given my all.

“During this tenure, I have worked with incredible players and staff and I will miss the daily interactions. I would like to say a huge thank you for their efforts and everything they have done to support the programme and contribute to our success.

“I’ve seen a lot change over the nine years I’ve been involved and the development of the women’s game has been remarkable.

“I am privileged to have been able to influence the English game which even now seems surreal.

“There have been great memories built around success and great memories built around defeat. Do I regret not signing off winning the World Cup as a head coach? Yes for sure, but I know we can all live with that because we could not have worked harder or given more, sometimes that’s just not quite enough and it wasn’t on the day. I know last year’s World Cup campaign was and continues to be celebrated and quite rightly so - the bravery and commitment of the players in that game was exceptional and is to be admired. They are an excellent group of players, but more importantly amazing people and I know they will continue to be successful.

“I know there is a robust process to get the right person to take over and I am naturally 100% committed until we get to that point. This is definitely the right time for someone to take over at the helm with new ideas, and a different voice for players to get inspired by.

“Now our attentions turn to being able to perform as well as we can with the goal of winning the Six Nations. It’s a really exciting tournament, culminating in a match against France at Twickenham in front of a huge crowd which will be an inspiring and incredible occasion for everyone. It’s a crucial tournament in the build-up to 2025 and I cannot wait to be back with the group.”

RFU Performance Director Conor O’Shea added: “Simon and I have been discussing his future plans for a period of time since the World Cup in New Zealand and I completely understand and support his decision.

“I know how motivated Simon is to finish his time with the Red Roses on a high with a successful TikTok Women’s Six Nations campaign. He has achieved more than most coaches ever do but for me, it’s the manner he has conducted himself as a person and his commitment to making the Red Roses the best they can be that stands out above the wins and the awards.

“When the time comes, we will give him the send-off he deserves but until then his focus will be on preparing the team for that first game of the Six Nations against Scotland at Kingston Park.

“Simon will be a massive influence and addition to whatever environment he goes to next and we will wish him well when the time comes for him to move on.

“In terms of a successor, we have been working on our coach succession planning processes over the past 18 months and we will initiate that process immediately with a view to announcing Simon’s replacement after this year’s Six Nations.

“The next few years are unbelievably exciting for the women’s game in England leading to a home Rugby World Cup in 2025.”