In what appears to be a shock announcement, Gary Street has left his post as England women’s head coach just two weeks before the beginning of the 2015 6 Nations competition. The RFU have issued the following statement:
“The Rugby Football Union and the England Women’s Head Coach Gary Street have agreed to part company today by mutual consent. Graham Smith, the team’s assistant coach, will also leave his position following the end of this season’s Six Nations campaign.
Looking ahead to the 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup it was felt by all parties that a change would be beneficial to take the women’s programme, which has evolved significantly in recent years, to the next stage.
Street has been involved in the women’s game since 2000 and was appointed head coach of the national side in 2007 following a brief stint as assistant coach. He led England to five consecutive Six Nations championship victories, including four Grand Slams and two World Cup finals. The last tournament, in 2014, saw the team lift the coveted trophy in Paris for the first time in 20 years.
He has been involved in international teams since 1992 having also coached England Students, U18, Academy and Sevens.
Following the team’s 2014 success, Street has received a number of personal and team related accolades including two coach of the year trophies at the UK Coaching Awards and Pride of Britain’s Coach of the Year. The team picked up Team of the Year at the BBC’s Sports Personality awards and from the Sports Journalist Association as well as the Sunday Times and Sky Sports Sportswomen Team of the Year.
Graham Smith, capped for England at U23 level and part of both England and Scotland squads, has been involved with the England women’s set-up since 2003 where he has worked as assistant coach. He played a significant role in three World Cup campaigns and the team winning seven consecutive Six Nations crowns. Smith also led England to success in the 2012 European Cup in Italy but the Women’s Rugby World Cup in Paris was undoubtedly his most prestigious achievement in his time with the England Women’s senior squad.
Street said: “I have been part of an incredible journey for the last 14 years, and I am extremely proud of the part that I played in growing the women’s game to where it is now. The pinnacle has to be winning the Rugby World Cup in France last year. However, huge credit must go to all the people involved in making that happen, not just the players but the backroom staff too and the many players and staff before that. It is a moment I will cherish forever. I now feel that I have achieved everything that I set out to do, and this is the right time to explore new challenges in my career.’
Smith added: “I have enjoyed a tremendous career with the England’s women’s set-up with many highlights along the way, most noticeably winning the Rugby World Cup. I am moving forward and I am excited by the new challenges ahead. I am also looking forward to being part of the coaching team one final time for this year’s Six Nations as this young squad starts the process of building towards the 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup.”
Nicky Ponsford, Head of Performance (Women) at the RFU said: “We would like to thank both Gary and Graham for their outstanding contributions to women’s rugby which has seen significant and unparalleled success in that time. Gary’s involvement extends 15 years, with Graham not far behind and their effort and enthusiasm they have put into their roles has been fantastic in supporting and developing the players as well as the women’s programme. Many of those players who won in Paris last year have been developed and coached by Gary and Graham throughout their entire playing careers. However, we all felt the time was right to make some changes within the women’s programme as we look to rebuild the team ahead of the next World Cup in 2017.”
In the interim, and while the recruitment process is underway to fill these positions full-time, Ponsford will oversee the Head Coach duties during the Six Nations, assisted by Smith as assistant and forwards coach and RFU coaches Simon Middleton and Jo Yapp.”
We would like to wish Gary Street and Graham Smith the very best of luck for the future and even more luck to the England team since the timing of this announcement cannot be the best preparation for this massive tournament.