England captain Sarah Hunter says the Rugby World Cup final loss to New Zealand cannot lessen the Red Roses’ impact on their sport.
“A result doesn’t define the team we are, the people we are,” Hunter said.
“I hope that at home we have inspired the next generation and given them something to be proud of.”
The defeat, in which England were hampered by an 18th-minute red card for winger Lydia Thompson, ended a streak of 30 successive wins for England.
That streak had made the Red Roses pre-tournament favourites, but New Zealand, who lost heavily in both Tests to England last autumn, were inspired at home.
“Sport is cruel, sport doesn’t end the way you want it to and unfortunately that was us tonight,” added Hunter.
“Thanks to New Zealand, they kept coming and found a way. They are deserved champions.
“We can be proud. We will look back and we didn’t overlook anything and that’s what we wanted to do whatever the result.
“We left everything on the pitch. It will take time, we are suffering, but we will stick together and get through this injury together.”
‘The players gave their all’ – Middleton
When asked how proud he was of his team, head coach Simon Middleton said: “It’s an overwhelming feeling. How proud I am and how proud we are of the players. They have absolutely everything. given, not just tonight, but for 50, 51 days.
“They only gave their best every day.”
On the red card, he added: “It didn’t help. It’s difficult to have 14 players for so long. We put a lot of pressure on them, they put a lot of pressure on us.”
England had the opportunity for a lineout to snatch victory in the dying minutes but couldn’t take it.
“We took it all the way. It could have gone either way in the end. Overall, I’m so proud of the players. They couldn’t have given more.
“Bounces happen in a game and you deal with them. It’s part of the game and we dealt with that.”
Middleton said in the run-up to the tournament, anything less than a win would be a disappointment.
“In terms of goals, yes,” he added. “Talk to any of the players and they’ll say the exact same thing.
“But we won on massive fronts. We wanted to leave these ribs a better team than we had. We did 100%. We lost tonight but won massively in the last 51 days.”
“We have world superstars coming”
New Zealand head coach Wayne Smith, who was assistant coach for the men’s World Cup-winning All Blacks in 2011 and 2015, said he had “never been prouder of a team”.
“We just wanted to play and be true to our DNA,” he added.
“I won’t stay involved, but I will follow these women for the rest of their careers. It’s not just the 23 today, we have global superstars coming.
“I just think the future is great. I will follow them but from a different position.”
Black Ferns captain Ruahei Demant praised the home support saying: “None of us really expected this. Coming out of the tunnel and you can’t even think because the crowd is so loud. , I never thought we would get this. Part of our plan was to inspire the nation and I think we did.”