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By Josh Graham
Missing out on playing in front of record-breaking crowds in the TikTok Women’s Six Nations left injured England hooker Amy Cokayne feeling like a competition winner with behind-the-scenes access.
Such is the heightened focus on the Championship in its own dedicated window that England played in front of 14,689 adoring fans at Kingsholm - a record for a Red Roses home fixture - in the 58-5 win over Wales in Round 3.
But after watching on enviously alongside fellow rehab club members Hannah Botterman and World Rugby’s Player of the Year Zoe Aldcroft, Ipswich-born hooker Cokayne has shaken off a calf injury to help aid the defending champions’ Grand Slam push in this weekend’s Round 4 clash at home to Ireland.
The 25-year-old, who starts on the bench behind Lark Davies for Sunday’s Welford Road clash, said: “At Gloucester when the referee came into the changing room to check boots, she came over to check ours and we said, ‘Oh no, we are not playing - we are just competition winners!’.
“And it did almost feel like that in the sense it was such an amazing day to be a part of, to go out onto the pitch and soak up the atmosphere and be a fan as well.
“All the countries have had record crowds who have really been getting behind their team, the inclusion of TikTok as the sponsor has played a huge part in that and you can see it all over social media.
“This Six Nations has probably been the biggest I’ve ever been part of.”
Cokayne is ready to return to the fray after 10 weeks of gruelling physio and conditioning with the Harlequins ace just happy to be back playing after fearing she would miss the entire 2022 Championship.
She said: “Initially when I did my injury, I was told I probably wouldn’t feature at all in the Six Nations, so to get that glimmer of light, when my rehab was going well, that I could potentially be fit for these two fixtures, I was focusing on that.
“I’m not sure fresh is quite the word I’d use for how I feel, but I’m definitely excited to get back involved.”
England’s unbeaten run stands at 21 games after impressive wins over Scotland, Italy and Wales with Simon Middleton rotating his squad to great effect, showing off England’s phenomenal playing resources, something Cokayne believes is only going to benefit the side.
She explained: “I think it’s good that we are building strength in depth.
“To give people like Connie [Powell] in my position the opportunity to play and get some game time I think is huge. We haven’t really had a strong third hooker for a while.
“So to get that competition back in camp for myself and Lark [Davies] has been really good. To have that competition in training to raise those standards is only a good thing.”
— Amycokayne (@amycokayne) April 16, 2022
Ireland will be without several of their backline in Leicester on Sunday after they were called up to the Sevens squad and arguably their Player of the Championship so far - second row Sam Monaghan, or as Cokayne calls her ‘Big Sam’ - has also picked up an untimely injury.
However, Cokayne knows better than to underestimate the threat that Greg McWilliams’ underdogs will pose after they picked up their first win of the Championship with a 29-8 triumph over Italy at Musgrave Park last time out.
She said: “To see Big Sam injured is really unfortunate, I think she’s been having a fantastic tournament and has definitely been Ireland’s talisman giving them good go-forward.
“They’ve got some good running threats as well even with their backline changed with the Sevens girls not included.
“I think it will be really interesting to see what Ireland bring as they are in this rebuilding stage of their team and they will chuck whatever they want at you and see how you deal with it.”
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/