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Williams still smiling despite final outcome

By Ali Donnelly

Despite the failure of England to win the Womens Rugby World Cup on home soil, theres still plenty for Rosie Williams the managing director of the RFUW to smile about when reflecting on the tournament.

Englands hosting ability was nothing short of a resounding success and she can reflect happily on a hugely rewarding tournament off the pitch.

The facts speak for themselves - more than 30,000 fans attended the 17-day-tournament which ended with the Black Ferns winning their fourth title, in front of 13,253 at the Twickenham Stoop a record for a womens rugby international fixture.

The World Cup was screened in 127 territories to a potential audience of 227 million homes according to the IRB, Williams says she cant but be pleased at the overall media coverage of the event.

We got some really strong PR and exposure from the event and unquestionably the Sky coverage played a big part in that but the underlying reason the competition was a success was because the rugby was of such a high standard.

We were building up the media coverage for few years from an England point of view -we were able to promote grand slam wins for the last two seasons for example - and the media work was always about repeating the message that the players we had here were successful and it was a positive story.

A major success story too was the vindication of the decision to host the event at Surrey Sports Park where reservations about the outside London location and the smaller capacity were offset by the fantastic atmosphere and facilities.

We always wanted a single venue and we were very lucky to find Surrey where we were able to also host the teams which was an added bonus. We had looked elsewhere - places like Brunel, even Eton College and looked at whether they would work for us and certainly it took us a while to find the right place. It's not just about finding the perfect venue either - you have to find one that delivers you the event within a set budget and that for my point of view was the main issue as we searched initially.

We wanted the players also to be around each other as much as possible as well. In the women's game you often get teams on tours going in and out of a venue quickly and not getting that time together so we wanted them to experience the long-term friendships and bonds that comes from World Cups.

Williams concedes that one location also presented plenty of challenges with squads training alongside each other meaning inevitable concerns on equipment and pitches but all were dealt with well.

A highlight for me, she adds, was sitting on the hill one day between the two pitches and actually getting to watch the games and enjoy it - I was surprised to find myself with no job to do because everything was being run so well. Everyone bought into the concept that this would be the best World Cup ever.

Surrey had it constraints the small capacity for example meant that some fans were unable to get into the pool stages with a couple of sold old signs going up early doors.

Like everyone else I would loved to have been able to help build a massive stand out there for the games and get as many people as possible in, but for a variety of reasons we couldn't and what we focused on then was getting everyone really close to the action which we did.

Englands World Cup off the pitch was such a success that the IRB has since delayed naming the hosts for the next competition no doubt hoping that more countries come into the mix, and Williams has plenty of advise for potential bidders.

The IRB have got to select a union that can cope with the standards needed to put it on - I'm not sure a developing country could do that at this stage but thats for them to work out. You've absolutely got to keep the tournament on TV and you've got to make it as commercially viable as you can - the IRB doesn't cover the cost of running it all. We proved you don't need major stadiums apart from the final stages so it is possible for a country without those to do it but they would need to have a very realistic attitude in terms of how many people will come. Of course you also have to deliver everything the teams need that is key.

On the pitch of course it wasnt a successful campaign with England losing the final by just three points. Williams says it is a setback but that legacy work and development has ploughed on regardless.

Winning would have been helpful from a development point of view for sure - but we've been around the country at Freshers weeks lately for example and we know that there has been massive interest since the World Cup in the game at all levels. We've got lots of plans around keeping the profile of the sport right up there in the UK but I think it's taken us a while to get our heads around the fact that we lost the final. It is tough for everyone to take because all of the people behind the scenes were making the effort in the hope that England would win it.

So what went wrong for England, who were by far the most prepared and best prepared England team ever.

In many ways you could argue that all we got wrong was 80 minutes I know that's the most important part of the whole thing but we did a lot right over the past few years. We will have a strong review process and we won't be afraid to be self critical - we'll be reflecting on what went wrong, and we'll be talking to everyone involved to get the feedback we need.

So what next for England we ask will we see them head to New Zealand more regularly and try and get games against their closest rivals before the next World Cup?

Look we cant go and play New Zealand in New Zealand every year .The IRB should be looking at teams getting to play each other at the right levels every year and help us to balance out the programme somewhat. There must be willingness among the other nations to travel but of course that required careful funding and planning, we understand that.

Whatever England do, they will once again now be clear favourites for next year's 6 Nations where they will start again with the building process for the next World Cup.

They will certainly have an army of new fans behind them.