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When England’s rolling maul charged over the line 10 minutes into the Grand Slam decider against France last Saturday, it was no surprise that it was Sarah Bern with the ball in hand to crash over.
It was the prop’s fourth try of the Championship – her fifth would come later in the half – capping an impressive 2022 TikTok Women’s Six Nations for the Bristol Bears forward.
Bern has been a standout performer for the Red Roses as they won their fourth consecutive Championship, something recognised with her nomination for Player of the Championship alongside Marlie Packer, Madoussou Fall, and Laure Sansus.
“I’m really happy – I don’t think you could ask for much more,” said Bern on her nomination, who immediately points to hard work and the work of others around her as reasons for the nod.
“As a squad, we work so hard and the girls put in everything.
“We have an insatiable desire to get better, I don’t think any of us come away from a training session saying that was brilliant, we nailed everything.
“I genuinely think it’s down to hard work and the brilliant team I have around me at England, and the group of girls and staff really push each other but also celebrate the small wins along the way.”
— TikTok Women's Six Nations (@Womens6Nations) May 2, 2022
England ran home 45 tries throughout the Championship, many of which came from their imperious lineout and rolling maul, of which Bern was a big part and the 24-year-old emphasised just how much work goes into perfecting set-pieces.
“It’s pretty much all we talk about,” laughed Bern, who formed a formidable front-row with Vicky Cornborough and Lark Davies.
“The forwards we always laugh and joke that the forwards will be doing scrums and mauls and the backs will be stood kicking the ball too each other.
“We’ll come back in and the forwards will look like they’ve played a full game and the backs look like they’ve just done the warm-up!
“We work on it so much, there’s so much detail behind the scenes. I’ll go through all the scrum footage, we’ll take about that within the front row, the lineout leaders go through all the lineouts, and that’s all just on the players.
“Then we’ve got Deacs [England forwards coach Louis Deacon] who really drives it and puts it all together, comes in what he thinks, leads us from the front what he wants us to do.
“We go out and train and we basically go through our set-pieces, even on our days off we’ll sometimes go through a walkthrough to make sure we’ve got all our detail right.”
The Red Roses’ set-piece prowess has reaped rewards for the team as a whole, and for Bern personally with five tries – four of which came from set-pieces alongside a barnstorming 50 metre try against Italy – and the tighthead is enjoying scoring for her country, though once more is full of praise for her teammates.
She said: “It is always lovely – I don’t think anyone would say they don’t want to score a try for my country!
“I wouldn’t be in that opportunity if I wasn’t in this team, we’ve had a brilliant working maul at the moment, and our set-up means sometimes I’m on the back of that.
“It’s all the hard work that the girls put in to get us down to that position, and then it’s our job to execute and score.
“When we’re in the opposition’s 22, we need to come away with points and every team recognises you’re only going to get a certain number of opportunities and we need to make sure we’re prepared to execute when those opportunities arise.”
— TikTok Women's Six Nations (@Womens6Nations) April 30, 2022
England’s 24-12 victory in France capped a thrilling Championship, with new levels of interest in the TikTok Women’s Six Nations, and Bern hopes this support can be translated into the club game.
“If people have watched the Six Nations, whatever nation has been playing, a lot of players play in the Premiership,” said Bern, who will hope her Bristol Bears side can achieve a top four finish in the league before a well-earned rest ahead of the World Cup later in the year.
“No matter who they’ve been inspired by, whether that be Alisha Butchers who had a great tournament, or Marlie Packer who has also had an amazing tournament – you can watch those players weekly.
“Hopefully it’ll continue to attract people. We’ve had new people sell-out crowds at Gloucester for the Wales game, a lot of Wales girls play in the Premiership all the England girls play in the Premiership, so why wouldn’t you want to come and watch it?
“We’ve got a massive game this weekend against Quins and against Exeter the week after and we are looking to stay in the top four and get that trophy.
“It’s like, brilliant one job done, celebrate, enjoy the win and now it’s straight back onto where you left off. After that, everyone will really be looking forward to having some time off in June and just having a chill out and then it’s straight into World Cup focus.”
The TikTok Women’s Six Nations is more accessible than ever before. To find out how you can watch the Women’s Championship visit: womens.sixnationsrugby.com/tv/