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History made as England boss wins World Rugby Coach of the Year

By Alex McLeod
Simon Middleton (Photo by Catherine Ivill - RFU/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

England women’s boss Simon Middleton has created history at the World Rugby Awards by becoming the first coach of a female team to win Coach of the Year.

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Middleton beat out All Blacks head coach Ian Foster, Wallabies head coach Dave Rennie and Olympic gold medal-winning Black Ferns Sevens co-coaches Allan Bunting and Cory Sweeney to be crowned the best rugby coach on the planet.

The 55-year-old wins the award on the back of an impressive spell in charge of the Red Roses, who went through a second successive calendar year without defeat.

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Among the feats achieved by Middleton and his side this year include a third straight Women’s Six Nations title and back-to-back record victories over the world champion Black Ferns.

England, the world’s top-ranked side, did all of this while scoring 57 tries and conceding just 10 across eight tests this year, leaving them as frontrunners for next year’s World Cup in New Zealand.

Middleton joins an illustrious group – comprised of Rod McQueen, Bernard Laporte, Sir Clive Woodward, Jake White, Sir Graham Henry, Declan Kidney, Sir Steve Hansen, Michael Cheika, Eddie Jones, Joe Schmidt and Rassie Erasmus – to have won World Rugby Coach of the Year.

“From a personal point of view, it’s unbelievably satisfying,” Middleton said in a statement. “But from a team point of view and squad point of view, and everybody I work with particularly now at England, it’s as much for them as it is for me.”

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Middleton’s crowning as World Rugby Coach of the Year came on the same day that All Blacks flyer Will Jordan was confirmed as World Rugby Breakthrough Player of the Year.

Jordan capped off a brilliant sophomore year of international rugby by scoring a whopping 15 tries in 11 tests, the most scored in a calendar year by an All Black since Joe Rokocoko scored 17 tries in 2003.

As such, the 23-year-old fought off competition from Wales wing Louis Rees-Zammit, England first-five Marcus Smith and Wallabies wing Andrew Kellaway for the award.

Jordan becomes the sixth player to have won World Rugby Breakthrough Player of the Year since the award’s inception in 2015, joining Nehe Milner-Skudder, Maro Itoje, Rieko Ioane, Aphiwe Dyantyi and Romain Ntamack as award-winners.

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