The Yorkshireman is a decorated coach with a dual-code background
Simon Middleton: Ten things you should know about the Red Roses head coach
Simon Middleton became head coach of England Women in 2015 and has moulded the Red Roses into an imperious force.
His more recent success is part of a fascinating rugby career, which includes playing across the codes, a trip to the Olympics and a Rugby World Cup win.
Ten things you should know about Simon Middleton
1. Simon Middleton MBE was born on 2 February 1966 in Knottingley, West Yorkshire. Though introduced to rugby at secondary school, he did not play seriously until he joined his older brother at Knottingley RUFC aged 18.
2. Following six years at Knottingley, he was picked at full-back for Castleford RUFC in a one-off game against Yorkshire. Following an impressive display, Middleton was picked up by rugby league side Castleford Tigers and switched codes.
3. Middleton spent six successful years at Castleford, scoring 82 tries from wing. He was released aged 32 and subsequently returned to rugby union through a stint at Leeds Tykes.
4. On the same day as his final O Level exam, a teenage Middleton started working on the shop floor of local bottle-making factory Rockware Glass. Despite his rugby commitments, he would stay with the company for 20 years, rising to a designer position.
5. Once his playing days were over, Middleton became a coach at the Tykes. In an 11-year tenure that saw Leeds promoted to the Premiership for the first time, he worked as a defence, skills and assistant coach.
6. After meeting then England Women’s head coach Gary Street at an RFU coaching course, Middleton worked with the team part-time as a defence coach ahead of the 2010 World Cup.
7. Following a spell as a school rugby director, he took charge of the England Women’s sevens team in 2014 and was an assistant for the women’s XVs side during the World Cup-winning campaign that August.
8. Middleton was appointed England XVs head coach in 2015 but continued his role leading the sevens team. At the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, he led the Great Britain women’s sevens squad to fourth place.
9. He stood down from his sevens commitments after the Olympics to focus on England XVs. In his first World Cup as head coach in 2017, he led the Red Roses to the final, but they lost 42-31 to New Zealand.
10. Middleton’s Red Roses enjoyed a vintage 2021. They won a third successive Six Nations title without defeat, hammered New Zealand twice and ended the year with their winning run reaching the 18 Test mark.
Middleton was duly named World Rugby Coach of the Year in December 2021, becoming the first women’s team head coach to win the accolade.
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