Rugby League World Cup: England players must turn professional as Craig Richards leaves


England’s women’s players must turn professional to close the gap between New Zealand and Australia, says coach Craig Richards.

The host nation’s hopes of reaching a first World Cup final a 20-6 defeat Courtesy of York’s Kiwi Ferns.

“I don’t see what else they could do other than take the job away and train the unemployed,” said Richards, who said he would not continue in that role.

“I go to the gyms at five in the morning before the girls go to work.”

Unlike the Australian finalists and the majority of New Zealand players who play in the fully professional NRL women’s competition, England’s squad is made up of part-time players, many of whom have to book in after work. compete in the tournament.

“I’ve spent five years trying to close the gap. It’s not enough,” added a clearly emotional Richards.

“What more do you want from these girls? These girls [the New Zealand players] they are professionals, so the question is do you want to compete with them or not?

“I hope it goes that way. It’s about the behavior behind the pay. So the players who get it have to recognize and accept what it means to be a professional.

“The money should be a bonus, but there needs to be a change in attitude. During the pandemic, girls were meeting up in parks and sprinting in pairs; they were pushing in back gardens with weighted rucksacks.

“When I got the job and someone sent me videos of the last World Cup [in 2017 where England were beaten 52-4 by New Zealand], I thought, ‘Wow, what have I done?’ One of the tasks was simply to get closer.

“It will be someone else who leads the team forward. That decision was made a while ago. It will not be me, so I will help from a distance.”

Leeds Rhinos are currently the only Super League club to have announced they will do so bonuses and “meritocratic payments” earned by awards. for success in the Challenge Cup and Grand Final competitions” to their players from 2023 onwards.

Leeds, who won the Women’s Super League Grand Final in September, said it was the next stage in a move to fully professionalize the women’s team. However, Richards says others will have to follow.

“I think, sometimes, the competition [Super League] it doesn’t help that all the talent is on two or three sides. More work needs to be done to strengthen all the other sides behind. Until you get that, you’re going to struggle to catch these guys,” he added.

“We hope we’ve inspired the next generation”

Captain Emily Rudge and striker Jodie Cunningham were two of the four survivors of the last England squad to play at the World Cup on home soil nine years ago.

And while both have spoken positively about the evolution of the domestic game, they also believe the next steps need to be taken to help inspire a new generation of stars.

“The roads are there and progress is being made,” Cunningham said.

“It’s been huge since the last World Cup, but for us it’s about getting more girls playing and hopefully we’ve encouraged a lot of girls to take up the sport.

“It’s said a lot but these girls need to start paying. We need more time together.

“For us to be in camp as full-time professionals for two weeks has been fantastic and to be able to take the next step before the next World Cup would be great.”

Rudge added: “The World Cup at home has been massive for us. We definitely wanted to go one step further than the finals.

“We hope we’ve inspired the next generation and those young girls watching in the crowd.”