15 Nov 2022
Stanley points to England progress despite semi exit
The host nation fell just short of a place in their first-ever World Cup final
By Megan Armitage
Tara-Jane Stanley insists England have closed the gap on the world's best despite going down to New Zealand in the World Cup semi-finals.
The host nation made a flying start in York as full-back Fran Goldthorpe scored the game's first try but Craig Richards' side were eventually beaten 20-6.
Stanley admitted to conflicting feelings of pride and disappointment following the loss, knowing that the Lionesses have proved just how strong they are on this World Cup journey.
"I feel slightly empty but we've just been talking about how much hard work, how much grit and determination we have put into this tournament," she said.
"Obviously the result is really disappointing but I'm absolutely bursting with pride for the girls.
"This World Cup means so much to us and we really believe that we could have beaten New Zealand.
"But it isn't just about the scoreboard, it's about the journey we've been on and we've shocked a lot of people, showing that rugby league is something that we definitely need more investment and that we're worth it."
The Kiwi Ferns carried momentum into the second half and tries from Otesa Pule and Brianna Clark denied England a spot in their maiden World Cup final.
England's semi-final performance was a world away from the 52-4 defeat they suffered at the hands of their opponents five years ago, Stanley pointing to a positive shift in English rugby league.
And Stanley confirmed that their burning self-belief and pride will stand strong ahead of the next World Cup, knowing that it's only so long before England finally claim that win.
"The gap between us and New Zealand is closing and I genuinely believe that we could have done it today," she said.
"And that's the hardest thing for us girls who were there in 2017, that we felt the momentum was shifting our way but they just put points on the board really into the second half.
"As much as our hearts wanted it, it just wasn't swaying in our favour from then on.
"Our forwards really stood up against them but we did award them positions on the field and gave a couple of penalties away.
"We will always remember what it felt like when that 80-minute hooter went off and hopefully carry that through the next three years into that next World Cup."
The Rugby League World Cup promises to be the biggest, best and most inclusive event in the sport’s 127-year history with men’s, women’s and wheelchair teams competing in 61 games across 21 venues throughout England. Tickets are available via rlwc2021.com/tickets