Craig Richards took on the head coach role in 2017; Jodie Cunningham said the dressing room was “distraught” at the news of his departure from him; Australia will face old rivals New Zealand in the Women’s Rugby League World Cup Final at Old Trafford on November 19, with kick-off at 1.15pm
Last Updated: 15/11/22 3:35pm
England have confirmed Craig Richards is leaving his role as head coach of the women’s national team after their World Cup semi-final exit.
He broke down as he revealed he would leave with immediate effect in the wake of his side’s 20-6 defeat to New Zealand.
Richards, who took on the position following the 2017 tournament in Australia, watched two swift tries at the start of the second half sink his side and send the Kiwi Ferns through to Saturday’s final against Australia.
“It will be someone else that takes the team forward and makes those decisions – it won’t be me,” revealed an emotional Richards.
“I will support from afar, working with my club (St Helens) to make those players the best that they can be so that I can put them forward for club and country.
“One thing that won’t leave me is the passion I have for this England team. I am a really passionate England coach and I am really, really desperate for success.”
The RFL confirmed Richards’ departure on Tuesday morning, thanking him for his role in the development of womens’ and girls’ rugby league.
During Richards’ reign his side have clearly closed the gap on the southern hemisphere giants, with the New Zealanders having triumphed 52-4 in their equivalent semi-final meeting in Sydney in 2017.
But for Richards that was scant consolation, having brought his squad into the tournament with the firm belief they were good enough to overcome their largely full-time opposition and win the tournament on home soil.
“When I got the job and someone sent over a video of the last World Cup, I thought, ‘Wow, what have I done?’, admitted Richards.
“One of my tasks was initially just to get close to them, but I’ll be honest, a year or two in and my attitude was, we’re not going to get close to them, we’re going to beat them.
“I thought we had a side to beat them and I thought we would do. Someone told me you’ve closed the gap really well, but it’s not good enough. I’ve not tried to close the gap, I’ve tried to win a World Cup.”
In a statement released on Tuesday, RFL chief on-field officer Dave Rotheram paid tribute to Richards’ commitment in the role.
“Craig was appointed to take over immediately after the 2017 World Cup in Australia, and has developed the team through this current World Cup cycle – which was extended by 12 months as a result of the pandemic,” said Rotheram.
“That included a groundbreaking tour of Papua New Guinea in 2019, which followed an appearance in the World Nines in Sydney, and also required him to adapt to the unique challenges presented by Covid.
“He has overseen a thorough program of developing the players and, despite the pandemic, delivered a strong international playing program in the lead-up to this current campaign featuring matches against both Wales and France in 2021 and 2022.
“He has also been an excellent ambassador for women’s rugby league. On behalf of the RFL, we thank him for his immense commitment.”
Cunningham: Dressing room ‘distraught’
The news of Richards’ departure also sent shockwaves through the England dressing room after the match.
“Craig is just such a good guy,” said Jodie Cunningham.
“He has given everything to this squad and he has just told us in there that he is not carrying on and everybody was distracted about it.
“He has done so much for this squad as a person as well as a coach and it will be a big miss.
“It will be a big job on for whoever takes on this team but there is loads of potential for where this team can go as well.
“Devastated, I am going to process that information, but I wish Craig the best in whatever he does and really sad we didn’t get that win for him.”