Women’s Six Nations 2023: England’s Simon Middleton wants to ‘finish in right way’

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Simon Middleton talks to England players
Simon Middleton also coached Team GB’s sevens squad at the Rio Olympics in 2016
Venue: Twickenham Stadium Date: Saturday, 29 April Kick-off: 13:00 BST
Coverage: Watch on BBC Two, iPlayer and the BBC Sport website and app; listen on BBC Radio 5 Sports Extra and follow live text commentary on the BBC Sport website and app.

Departing England head coach Simon Middleton wants to “finish in the right way” when he takes charge of his final game in Saturday’s Women’s Six Nations Grand Slam decider against France.

Middleton, 57, will step down after eight years that have yielded five Six Nations titles and four Grand Slams.

Saturday’s game is set to be played in front of a record women’s crowd of more than 53,000 at Twickenham.

“The magnitude of the game has been a huge distraction,” Middleton said.

“It’s been a real privilege to be part of it. We just want to make sure we finish it in the right way on Saturday.”

Middleton has led the Red Roses to two World Cup finals, where they were defeated on both occasions by New Zealand.

He coached England to a record-breaking 30-match winning run which ended in the second of those World Cup final defeats in 2022.

Middleton was the first women’s coach to win World Rugby coach of the year in 2021 and has overseen England’s development into a full-time, professional team.

“There was always going to be an evolution process but hopefully I’ve been able to accelerate it,” he told BBC Sport’s Sara Orchard.

“I’ve been clear on what I want for the squad and that is to try and get the very best support around them.

“Where the game is now is massively important to me and I’m very proud of the fact that we’re so in the public domain now, everyone wants to cover us and come and see us.”

Should England’s next coach be a woman?

Middleton’s departure marks the start of a new era for England, with attack coach Scott Bemand also leaving and former captain Sarah Hunter having retired at the start of the Six Nations.

Middleton’s replacement is expected to be announced after the Six Nations, with the Rugby Football Union yet to give an exact date.

When asked how important it is that England’s next head coach is a woman, Middleton named Ealing director of women’s rugby Giselle Mather, Worcester head coach Jo Yapp and Exeter head coach Susie Appleby as some “very good” examples of female coaches.

“Ultimately, the right person will be the best person,” he added.

England captain Marlie Packer echoed Middleton, saying: “It’s the right person for the job.

“Whether it is male or female I don’t mind. We just want to be pushed to be the best players we can.”

Packer also took the opportunity to pay tribute to Middleton, describing his tenure as “a massive rollercoaster”.

“I respect him and what he’s done for us as a group and also for the women’s game,” she said.

“When Mids told me he was leaving, I said, ‘let’s go win this Six Nations, let’s send you off properly’.

“We want to make sure it is a Six Nations to remember and then kick on again, keep pushing to be the best.”

England lead the standings with four bonus-point wins and a points difference of 218. France are second with 19 points and a points difference of 140. Wales are third with 10 points, Scotland fourth with five, Italy fifth with four and Ireland bottom with no points


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