Sarah Bern ruled out of Women’s Six Nations as England suffer major blow

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

England have suffered a major blow ahead of the Women’s Six Nations with prop Sarah Bern ruled out of the tournament.

Bern, widely recognised as the world’s best tighthead, has suffered a season-ending meniscus injury.

The Bristol Bears prop has been a key cog for the Red Roses since a breakthrough World Cup campaign in 2017, helping England to five successive tournament crowns.

Poppy Cleall, meanwhile, has been left out of a training squad named by new head coach John Mitchell that will assemble at St. George’s Park next week ahead of the campaign.

The Saracens number eight, who has also played in the second row, missed the inaugural edition of WXV due to injury but is a former nominee for World Rugby Player of the Year.

It is understood that Cleall has been challenged to regain top form with her club, who top Premiership Women’s Rugby (PWR), and has already responded positively with a fine performance in the 39-26 weekend win over Exeter Chiefs.

Alongside Bern, centre Emily Scarratt, fly half Zoe Harrison, lock Zoe Aldcroft and hooker Amy Cokayne will miss the three-day training camp, which begins on Monday 22 January.

Sarah Bern is one of the world’s best players (PA Archive)
Sarah Bern is one of the world’s best players (PA Archive)

The quartet could yet be fit for the start of the Women’s Six Nations, with England opening their campaign against Italy in Parma on Sunday 24 March.

Lock Abbie Ward returns just six months after giving birth to daughter Hallie, while prop Ellena Perry is also back in the fold after becoming a mother.

Prop Lizzie Hanlon, back row Gabriella Nigrelli, wing Katie Buchanan and flanker Sharifa Kasolo are among the uncapped players named in a 38-player squad after impressing for their clubs in PWR.

Lock Abbie Ward returns after giving birth in July (Getty Images)
Lock Abbie Ward returns after giving birth in July (Getty Images)

Three-cap Saracens centre Sydney Gregson is also rewarded with a return to international contention after a horror run of injuries over the last few seasons.

“We are excited to come together for our first camp of 2024 and build on the positive experience of WXV and introduce some new people to what we are about,” said Mitchell.

“It is our first opportunity to revisit what we value, update our athletic profiling data of the group and re-focus on where our game is working and where we take it to next.”

John Mitchell will oversee his first camp as head coach (Getty Images)
John Mitchell will oversee his first camp as head coach (Getty Images)

England will host Wales at Ashton Gate and Ireland at Twickenham during the championship, while they conclude their campaign with a likely grand slam decider against France in Bordeaux.

Red Roses 38-player training squad:

Forwards (21)

Maisy Allen (Exeter Chiefs, 5 caps)

Lark Atkin-Davies (Bristol Bears, 54 caps)

Sarah Beckett (Gloucester-Hartpury, 34 caps)

Hannah Botterman (Bristol Bears, 42 caps)

Mackenzie Carson (Gloucester-Hartpury, 10 caps)

Kelsey Clifford (Saracens, 3 caps)

May Campbell (Saracens, 1 cap)

Rosie Galligan (Saracens, 14 caps)

Lizzie Hanlon (Exeter Chiefs, uncapped)

Daisy Hibbert-Jones (Loughborough Lightning, 1 cap)

Lilli Ives Campion (Loughborough Lightning, uncapped)

Sadia Kabeya (Loughborough Lightning, 13 caps)

Sharifa Kasolo (Saracens, uncapped)

Alex Matthews (Gloucester-Hartpury, 62 caps)

Maud Muir (Gloucester-Hartpury, 25 caps)

Gabriella Nigrelli (Bristol Bears, uncapped)

Cath O’Donnell (Loughborough Lightning, 30 caps)

Marlie Packer (Saracens, 99 caps)

Ellena Perry (Gloucester-Hartpury, 10 caps)

Connie Powell (Harlequins, 14 caps)

Abbie Ward (Bristol Bears, 61 caps)

Backs (17)

Holly Aitchison (Bristol Bears, 25 caps)

Sophie Bridger (Saracens, 2 caps)

Jess Breach (Saracens, 33 caps)

Katie Buchanan (Exeter Chiefs, uncapped)

Merryn Doidge (Exeter Chiefs, uncapped)

Abby Dow (Trailfinders Women, 40 caps)

Sydney Gregson (Saracens, 3 caps)

Tatyana Heard (Gloucester-Hartpury, 18 caps)

Natasha Hunt (Gloucester-Hartpury, 67 caps)

Megan Jones (Leicester Tigers, 16 caps)

Ellie Kildunne (Harlequins, 38 caps)

Claudia MacDonald (Exeter Chiefs, 32 caps)

Lucy Packer (Harlequins, 16 caps)

Amber Reed (Bristol Bears, 67 caps)

Helena Rowland (Loughborough Lightning, 28 caps)

Emma Sing (Gloucester-Hartpury, 6 caps)

Ella Wyrwas (Saracens, 6 caps)