England Women Sevens' World Cup silver medal in Japan is just the beginning of their journey, according to coach James Bailey, after a closely-fought final against Canada.
Bailey's side had taken the lead in the showpiece of the Kitakyushu Sevens towards the end of the first half when Megan Jones broke free and found Amy Wilson Hardy to surge over the line.
It was the first time Canada and England had met in a final but the North Americans had won seven of the previous eight meetings and looked determined to improve that record in the second half.
Resolute defence from England saw them hold on to their lead until the final play of the game when Ghislaine Landry managed to score under the posts to level the scores and set up an easy kick to give her side a narrow 7-5 victory.
Defeat leaves England seventh in the overall HSBC World Series standings, 19 points off the fourth and final Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games qualification spot with two rounds of the competition remaining.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the girls’ effort over this weekend and the past weeks and months where we’ve had to dig in, regroup and back each other up," said Bailey.
"Everything we’ve done here has been based on the exceptional work rate and effort of the staff and players.
“We needed a bit of time for some of these young girls who have been outstanding with everything they’ve done to get some experience of playing on the world stage.
“We can’t forget that the majority of the squad are under the age of 23 but the future is so exciting. We’re on journey and this is very much still the start.”
England had come through a quarter-final match up with Australia which saw them emerge 21-7 winners with Alex Matthews, Helena Rowland and Holly Aitchison all scoring tries to set up a last-four tie with France.
And it was a nail-biting semi-final with France taking an early lead through Grace Okemba before captain Abbie Brown scored twice to cancel out Anne Cecile Ciofani’s try.
Ciofani added another to put France ahead but England responded immediately when replacement Emma Uren ran the length of the pitch and Aitchison’s conversion nudged England into a 19-17 lead that they ultimately held to reach the final.