St Helens legend James Graham reveals what Wayne Bennett said to England players after 2017 World Cup Final heartache

The agony of England’s 6-0 defeat to Australia in the 2017 Rugby League World Cup Final no doubt still haunts fans especially the ankle tap that denied Kallum Watkins a potential equalising try.

However, as England look to book their place in the 2022 final against Samoa this weekend, two players who featured in that final have opened up on their experiences in the 2017 tournament.

Castleford Tigers bound halfback Gareth Widdop revealed that the defeat still doesn’t sit well with him speaking on James Graham’s The Bye Round Podcast: “It was well worth it, that trip was a great trip but it still haunts me a little bit today that end result. It doesn’t sit well with me especially how hard we worked and how Wayne had pulled us all together. It was such a good group of men and players but we came up a bit short.”

Meanwhile, host of the podcast and St Helens legend revealed what then Head Coach Wayne Bennet said to the squad after their heart-breaking defeat: “I’ll never forget Wayne’s post-match talk he said ‘You didn’t lose today, you just ran out of time and that’s sometimes what great sporting contests are about.

“I look back on great pride on that, that tournament we bonded, I’ve never been in a team that has come together from so many different places and became so close.”

He also thinks injuries didn’t help the side either: “You look at who didn’t play in the final, we lose Hodgson, we lose Sean O’Loughlin.”

These injuries were part of the reason why Widdop ended up moving to fullback and he had some funny stories about the positional switch: “Bentos just causally said ‘have you ever played fullback?’ So I ended up playing fullback against France in Perth and it was a pretty good win so I ended up playing fullback for the rest of the tournament and getting smashed on kick returns against Tonga and Papua New Guinea.”

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