As a full time coach working with England teams for the past 11 years, Simon Hardy is steeped in the game that he took up when 15 at Great Baddow Comprehensive in Chelmsford. Simon said: "It was a soccer school so we only played rugby when there were no football fixtures."
Little did he realise then that he would become a specialist rugby coach with the experience of more than 100 Test matches and a considerable CV behind him. He continued: "The first session I did with England was with Richard Cockerill in 1998. I worked with the national side until 2000 before becoming full time."
He was actively involved in a specialist coaching role when England reached the 1999 Rugby World Cup quarter finals before working in a similar capacity with the triumphant 2003 squad in Australia. Simon also assisted England leading to the 2007 RWC final.
As a forwards’ coach, Oxford-born Simon helped England A and Saxons to win the Churchill Cup in 2005, 2008 and 2010 and was appointed to help mentor the 2011 squad as well as the England XV that held the Barbarians to 38-32 at Twickenham in May. He had initially been the Divisional Technical Administrator for the South West when joining the RFU 17 years ago and became the National Coaching Development Manager in 1997.
Educated at Hedley Walter School in Brentwood, now renamed as Sawyers Hall College of Sport & Science and Leek High School, he had played schools’ cricket for Essex and soccer for Staffordshire. His diverse talents have since included differing roles depending with which England team he is working.
In his playing days, he captained Eastern Counties and appeared for Saracens and London Wasps, having started as a centre before "working my way in" as he puts it, to No.8, prop and hooker. He represented England Under 23 and won the UAU Championship three times while at Loughborough University. While recovering from injury and playing for Welwyn, he represented the London Division.
He added: "My first club coach was Andy Hancock, an ex-England wing and one of the best I had was Jim Greenwood. As for my own high spots, the 2003 RWC was the one but I still feel the game against Argentina at Buenos Aires in 2002 was another. We took an inexperienced team and beat the Pumas 26-18."
It dovetailed perfectly with Simon’s general philosophy about the game – to win.