England women’s coach Craig Richards confirmed he will step down from his role following a 20-6 defeat to New Zealand in the world cup semi-final.
The Lionesses took the lead inside the opening five minutes but failed to find another breakthrough as the Kiwi Ferns scored four unanswered tries to book their spot at Old Trafford.
An emotional Richards confirmed his exit before leaving the press conference in tears. He said: “I probably won’t say too much about my future. I think it’s somebody else that takes the team forward.
“That decision was made a while ago but I won’t go too much into it. It won’t be me. I’ll support from afar. From the club I work at, make the players the best they can be. I think I’ve done a reasonably good job of that so I’ll fall back into my role. I’ll push the girls forward for club and country.
“One thing that won’t leave me is the passion for England. I’m Jamaican heritage and I’m really proud of the Jamaican side of my family. But I was born in England and I’m really passionate about England. I’ll do what I need to do to strengthen this side. I want success and I’m desperate. I’m really desperate for success.”
Craig Richards proud of his side in defeat
England entered the tournament as third favourites, with few expecting the hosts to trouble three-time winners New Zealand and defending champions Australia.
Richards’ side powered through their group with relative ease, picking up comfortable victories over Brazil and Canada before getting the better of Papua New Guinea.
England then switched their attention to New Zealand in a repeat of the 2017 semi-final. On that occasion, the Kiwi Ferns put 52 points past the Lionesses in a one-sided affair.
Five years on, England led proceedings until the half-hour mark though ultimately, they once again came up short.
Looking back at the result, he said: “Extremely hard (to take) for all of us. Some pretty gutted girls in there which isn’t nice to see.”
Richards added: “I’m a real positive guy, at least I think I am. How do I get over it? No problem whatsoever. I just look at the girls and I’m so proud of them.
“I’ve been on the journey with them, I’ve seen how hard they’ve worked. I see how they’ve balanced their lives, their lifestyles. I’ve seen changes and the sacrifices they’ve made. I just can’t put into words how proud I am of them.
“I’ll get over it. I’ll reflect on what I’ve done. Could I have done anything more to ultimately close that gap down or get us a win today? There’s lessons for me to learn.
“I’ll get over it but I’m probably more upset for the girls than anything. Because I don’t see what else they could’ve done. Besides sack off work and train unemployed, I don’t know what they could do.
“I’ve got girls who are at 5am and 6am heading to gyms to get a session in before work. And then back into skills after work. What more do you want from these guys? There’s nothing more I want from them.”
Following their victory, New Zealand will take on Australia who beat PNG 82-0 to seal their spot in the showpiece.
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