Simon Middleton talks to his England team
Simon Middleton became an MBE for services to rugby in June

England’s Simon Middleton has become the first women’s team coach to win World Rugby Coach of the Year.

The 55-year-old beat the All Blacks’ Ian Foster, Australia men’s Dave Rennie and New Zealand women’s sevens coaches Allan Bunting and Cory Sweeney.

Middleton helped England win a third successive Six Nations title in April.

The Red Roses then claimed four victories in the autumn – including two against world champions New Zealand – to take their winning run to 18 games.

Middleton’s side are ranked number one in the world and are set to be one of the favourites when New Zealand hosts the World Cup in 2022.

The award comes a week after World Rugby promised to “increase the pace of women’s rugby development”external-link with a plan including a focus on player welfare and the launch of a new global competition.

A former rugby league player at Castleford, Middleton switched to rugby union and played at Leeds Tykes where he became a coach at the end of his playing career.

He joined the England set-up in 2014 and was an assistant coach during the Red Roses’ winning World Cup campaign that year.

Middleton led Team GB women’s sevens team to a fourth-place finish at the 2016 Olympic Games and has been head coach of England’s XVs side since 2015.

New Zealand wing Will Jordan, 23, was named Breakthrough Player of the Year after scoring 15 tries in 11 Tests. He beat off competition from Wales star Louis Rees-Zammit, England fly-half Marcus Smith and Australia’s Andrew Kellaway.

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