'One result doesn't define the squad that we are, the people we are'
Captain Sarah Hunter said “sport is cruel” after she was left gutted by England’s 34-31 loss to New Zealand in the World Cup final.
The Red Roses came up just short at Eden Park, losing for the first time in 31 matches against the defending champions in front of a sell-out crowd.
Hunter told ITV: “I’m gutted. I’m so proud of the team, we came out fighting.
“We had our backs against the wall for 60 minutes but we never gave up. One result doesn’t define the squad that we are, the people we are. Hopefully we have inspired the next generation back home and given themselves something to be proud of.
“Sport is cruel. Credit to New Zealand, they found a way and they go home as deserved champions. We left no stone unturned, we left everything on the pitch. We are hurting.”
It was a thrilling final between the world’s top-two teams with seven tries in the first half.
The Black Ferns won it when Ayesha Leti-I’iga finished off a brilliant move late in the game.
When asked how proud he was of his team, Middleton said: “That’s the overwhelming feeling. How proud I am and we are of the players. They gave absolutely everything. Not just tonight but for 50, 51 days.
“They’ve given nothing but their absolute best every single day.”
On the red card, he added: “It didn’t help. It’s tough having 14 players for that long. We put them under a lot of pressure, they put us under a lot of pressure.
“We took it right down to the wire. It could have gone either way at the end. Overall, I’m just so proud of the players. They couldn’t have given more.
“Twists happen in a game and you deal with them. It’s part of the game and we dealt with it.”
Middleton said in the build-up to the tournament anything less than a win would be a disappointment.
“In terms of our goals, it is,” he added. “Talk to any of the players and they’ll say exactly the same.
“But we won on massive fronts. We wanted to leave these shores a better team than we came. We did 100 per cent. We’ve lost tonight but won massively over the last 51 days.”
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