England star Jodie Cunningham cut an emotional figure after revealing her side were ‘distraught’ to hear Craig Richards would be stepping down as head coach.
The Lionesses crashed out of the world cup on Monday night following a 20-6 defeat to New Zealand in York.
Fran Goldthorp scored England’s sole try as the hosts succumbed to a quality display from the Kiwi Ferns.
After the match, head coach Richards announced he would be stepping down from his role before leaving his post-match press conference in tears.
Cunningham later revealed the reaction to the news in the dressing room after Richards addressed the players.
The St Helens star held back tears as she said: “Craig is such a good guy. Honest to god, he’s given everything to this squad. He’s just told us in there that he’s not carrying on.
“Everybody was distraught about it. He’s done so much for this squad as a person as well as a coach. He will be a big miss and it will be a big job for whoever takes on this team. But there’s loads of potential of where this team can go as well.
“(We are) absolutely going to be devastated, we’re going to process that information and we wish Craig the best with whatever he does. But really sad we couldn’t get the win for him.”
Jodie Cunningham: We have closed the gap on Australia and New Zealand
England certainly put on an improved showing from their 52-4 defeat to New Zealand in the 2017 world cup semi-final.
However, that was little consolation for Cunningham, who said: “It doesn’t make you feel any better right now. I think we clearly have (closed the gap). I genuinely on another day we beat New Zealand. We had the ability to do it, we had the players to do it. It just didn’t go our way today.
“It’s not a lack of effort. The girls couldn’t have done any more today, it just really wasn’t our day. It hurts and it’s going to hurt for a long time. But it shows the progress we’ve made it shows the hard work that’s gone on behind the scenes. But we obviously didn’t get the result we wanted.”
New Zealand will now set their sights on Australia as they look to claim their fourth world cup title. The final takes place on Saturday at Old Trafford ahead of the men’s final.