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Former England head coach Brian Ashton set to consult with Red Roses

Exclusive: The vastly experienced Ashton is set to be involved with the Red Roses programme for the first time

Harry Latham-Coyle
Tuesday 16 May 2023 08:23 BST
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Brian Ashton coached England’s men to the final of the 2007 Rugby World Cup
Brian Ashton coached England’s men to the final of the 2007 Rugby World Cup (Getty Images)

England are set to benefit from the involvement of the vastly-experienced Brian Ashton as they continue their preparations for the 2025 Women’s Rugby World Cup.

The Independent understands that Ashton, who guided England’s men to the World Cup final in 2007, will be involved in the set-up in an unofficial capacity, helping a new-look Red Roses coaching team.

The 76-year-old Ashton, one of rugby’s most respected and accomplished coaches, has consulted within England’s pathway structure over the last couple of years, continuing an association with the national teams that stretches back to the mid-1980s.

England appointed John Mitchell as their head coach earlier in May after the departure of Simon Middleton at the end of the Women’s Six Nations.

Mitchell will be assisted by incumbent forwards coach Louis Deacon and Lou Meadows, with former England captain Sarah Hunter appointed to a new role as a transition coach, working with both England’s senior side and in the pathways programme.

After previous stints as an assistant, Ashton was appointed as England head coach after the dismissal of Andy Robinson in December 2006, losing narrowly to South Africa after an improbable run to the final of the 2007 World Cup.

The Lancastrian was rewarded with an indefinite contract after that tournament but lasted only a single Six Nations more in the role before being removed in favour of Martin Johnson.

It is understood that Ashton was not involved while Middleton was in charge of the Red Roses. The veteran, highly regarded within the game, should offer a vital sounding board to both players and coaches as the Rugby Football Union (RFU) continue to seek to develop coaching within the game.

Brian Ashton took England’s men to the 2007 World Cup final (Reuters)

Mitchell, currently defence coach of Japan’s male side, is not expected to commence work in his new role until after the conclusion of this year’s Rugby World Cup, meaning he will miss the Red Roses’ build-up to the inaugural WXV competition.

The top tier of World Rugby’s new event will be held in New Zealand and starts during the knockout stage of the World Cup in France.

Meanwhile, Leicester Tigers have confirmed the signing of England hooker Amy Cokayne from Harlequins.

The Welford Road club will join the Premier 15s next season and have moved to secure the 26-year-old, who made her English club breakthrough at nearby Lichfield and scored a hat-trick in last year’s World Cup final at Eden Park.

Vicky Macqueen’s Tigers have already confirmed the signings of Great Britain Sevens pair Meg Jones and Celia Quansah and Scotland prop Leah Bartlett. Ex-prop Rocky Clark, England’s second most capped player, has been added to their coaching team, while more signings are expected to be announced in the coming weeks.

To replace Cokayne, Harlequins have recruited youngster Connie Powell, England’s regular third-choice hooker over the last 12 months, who will join the London club ahead of the 2022/23 season.

Powell departs Gloucester-Hartpury, who moved back to the top of the Premier 15s table with a win over Loughborough on Sunday.

Saracens, meanwhile, all but secured a semi-final place after handing Exeter Chiefs just their second defeat of the season in a scrappy, physical encounter at the StoneX Stadium.

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