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Scrumqueens Awards 2016: Part 2: Coaches

Part two of our annual awards - this time we choose our coaches of the year. 

We have been making these awards for several years now, and how we do our selection has gradually evolved, so here’s a reminder of how this process works. 

The Scrumqueens Awards start with you. We ask for nominations, giving everyone about a month to submit their ideas.  We also asked other women’s rugby sites to give the process a mention, and our thanks to those that did.

Based on those nominations we whittle the lists down to a shortlist. This is not entirely based on popularity - we know we have more readers from some countries than others, so any attempt at a “popular vote” would have a significant home countries bias, which we want to avoid. That said, a large number of nominations for the same person or team can influence things a bit – and we similarly would not consider anyone or any team who were not nominated.

Once we have things down to three or four names we tend to agree on most winners, though there are always one or two that result in more detailed discussion.  We do pride ourselves that our awards are open to everyone and do not just go to the big names or teams. While success on the field is obviously important, we also try take into account the resources and support available to teams and coaches.

We’ve already announced two award winners - New Zealand as test team of the year and Australia as 7s team of the year, and so now onto our Test Coach of the Year and our Sevens Coach of the year. 

Test Coach of the Year

Shortlist:  José Antonio Barrio (Spain), Glenn Moore (New Zealand), Francois Ratier (Canada)

Glenn Moore (New Zealand)

Moore stepped into this role just a year ago, having led the Black Ferns in an interim basis over the summer of 2015 to Super Series success. This year he has made his mark, with the Black Ferns looking like they are getting back to their best, thanks to a perfect season with five test wins. While the fine wins over Australia this year were largely to be expected, Moore’s side shone in the Autumn Series with wins over Ireland, Canada and England. Moore will lead his side into a World Cup where the they will be strong contenders to reclaim the title and he has given his side a sense of stability that seemed to go missing in the lead up to their poor 2014 World Cup showing, by their own high standards. He also has the benefit of mixing his squad with some of his nation's best sevens players who give his side an added threat. The next 12 months could be huge for him and his charges. 

Francois Ratier (Canada)

Canada's likeable head coach Francois Ratier led Canada to four wins and two losses this year - a record that included a dominant Super Series win, helping the team to finish the year ranked third in the world. In the Super Series, Canada trounced England before going on to comfortably beat France and the USA. In the Autumn, they beat Ireland, again with a strong win, before losing by 10 to New Zealand.  A very short turnaround with his small squad perhaps meant a win over England was never really on the cards and the manner of their defeat at Twickenham will have disappointed but it's worth noting that Ratier had to lead the side into the Autumn Series without a single sevens player, with the programmes now totally separate (unlike the other sides in this test window), so his record remains very impressive in 2016. 

José Antonio Barrio (Spain)

But our winner this years has been in charge of a remarkable year for Spain, at both 15s and 7s level. Barrio has managed to coach both national sides to huge highs in 2016. As he is jointly nominated for both awards we will wrap up his efforts with both squads in one.  There is probably no coach better at switching his team from 7s to 15s and back while maintaining performance. With a limited player pool, he has no choice - Spain cannot maintain competitive separate 15s and 7s squads. But switching formats is a dark art and Barrio is better at it than pretty much anyone else. Highs this year included Spain qualifying for Rio, thanks to a brilliant two days in Dublin and Spain qualifying for the 2017 World Cup, thanks to two wins over Scotland. It has been a year where Barrio’s coaching CV has certainly been enhanced. Barrio's leadership of his sevens squad was impressive, but in the end it is his putting together a Spanish team largely starved of high level competition that was still capable of qualifying for the World Cup that deservedly wins our award this year.

WINNER: José Antonio Barrio (Spain)

Sevens Coach of the Year: 

Shortlist: José Antonio Barrio (Spain), David Courteix (France), Simon Middleton (England/Great Britain), Tim Walsh (Australia) 

José Antonio Barrio (Spain) (see above)

David Courteix (France)

David is an almost unique individual - a French coach who loves sevens. We first met him on the back pitches in Amsterdam during the first year of the World Series, bemoaning the FFR's lack of interest in the format. It was that disinterest that eventually left him just two years to get together a competitive sevens squad to take on a world that had been playing he game far more seriously for better than twice as long, not to mention key players who as late as 2015 were still giving priortity to club requirements over resting for crucial World Series tournaments. Against this background getting his team to the final of both legs of the European Championship, and the Olympic quarter-finals with an overall 6th place is pretty impressive. Sevens now a serious, permanent, part of the French women's programme and David can build on his young team's 2016 experience so they could go much further in future. 

Simon Middleton (England/Great Britain)

Simon Middleton had the toughest of jobs this year. Head coach for England's 15s and 7s, plus the politically senstitive task of forming a Great Britain team for the Rio Olympics. The latter in the end was over 90% England players, but there was always more to it than just switching shirts and putting a different team name on the board. The need to incorporate players from Scotland and Wales into the training squads in the final year (well, ten months) before Rio, while not actually being able to play them in most tournaments, will have been a tricky balance. And the fact that RFU had chosen to take the shortcut route of selecting their top fifteens players and converting them to sevens, rather than building a pure sevens squad was not Middleton's doing. Expectations were inevitably high - they always are for England/Great Britain teams - and the failure to win a medal was seen as disappointing but the fact that the team Middleton built came so very close to glory was an impressive outcome, and perhaps more importantly has also provided a core of sevens specialists around which England can now build for 2020.

Tim Walsh (Australia) 

Tin Walsh won this award in 2014, and there’s simply no doubt he is the deserved winner again this year. Australia have had a sensational year winning the World Series and the Olympics and as a result, women’s rugby in Australia is on something of a high, with the team generating huge interest and exposure. So much of this is down to their down to earth head coach, who in this interview after Rio, gives us a great insight into what makes his team so special. And there is surely so much more to come from Australia given Walsh's squad have youth on their side and some of the most talented athletes women's 7s has seen in its short term as a professional sport. 

WINNER: Tim Walsh (Australia)