England and Warrington half-back George Williams says it took him a while to get over the heartbreaking World Cup semi-final defeat to Samoa.
Stephen Crichton’s dramatic golden point drop goal earned a 27-26 win for Samoa, who England had beaten 60-6 in the tournament opener barely a month before.
Williams and his team-mates had been in good form in the tournament and were favourites to reach the final, eventually won by Australia.
But they struggled to get going in the first half against Samoa in a historic match at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium, going in at half-time 10-6 behind.
It turned in to a see-saw battle in the second half, with Herbie Farnworth’s converted try eventually forcing extra time.
Williams started in all five of England’s World Cup matches, with his only previous World Cup experience being two appearances off the bench at the 2017 tournament.
He scored three tries in the tournament at the end of season in which his club Warrington had struggled and surprisingly finished second bottom of the Super League table.
Williams said: “I reckon that’s the worst I’ve ever taken a loss – I couldn’t switch off. I’m normally pretty good at separating rugby from my home life, but I couldn’t stop thinking about it for two or three weeks.
“That’s weird for me but I was really rattled by it.
“It was a great experience and I was really fortunate to captain my country at a World Cup. As much as the ending hurt, I really enjoyed the whole thing.”
George Williams hails unreal environment under Shaun Wane
It will be for others to now ponder what happens beyond the World Cup, both on and off the pitch.
The feel good factor was created by England’s wheelchair World Cup win, while the wall-to-wall coverage on BBC was also a positive that must be built on.
Unfortunately, any momentum for the international game has been halted by the ongoing fall-out in Australia between the NRL and its players, who are as yet still unable to agree a new collective bargaining agreement.
That may have repercussions for domestic rugby league Down Under, but it also means that it’s virtually impossible for the international schedule for next year to be confirmed as the majority of elite players requiring release to play are in the NRL.
England do at least know they’ll have one game in 2023, a mid-season international against France at Williams’ home ground at the Halliwell Jones Stadium.
There has been some speculation about the future of head coach Shaun Wane, who was as disappointed as anyone after the World Cup semi-final.
He was virtually in tears in the post-match press conference, such was his disappointment at what he saw as a massive opportunity for England to end 40 years of hurt.
George Williams added: “I want Shaun to stay on – 100 per cent.
“The environment he managed to create over that five or six weeks was unreal.
“Anyone you speak to who was part of it will tell you it was a great vibe in there and until the last game, it showed in our performances.
“We were probably the form team in the comp until the semis, which hurts.”