Gloucester prop Sarah Bern previews the second round of England’s Women’s Six Nations campaign against Wales with Shay Waterworth
Women’s Six Nations England v Wales preview
Every team has a player who likes a practical joke, but England have a double act. “I like to have fun,” says tighthead prop Sarah Bern. “Me and Izzy Noel-Smith are like Dumb and Dumber around camp.”
Bern has become the youngest veteran in the England set-up, the 20-year-old suddenly becoming one of the more experienced players in the team after head coach Simon Middleton added a selection of teenagers to his squad.
The Gloucester forward will earn her 17th cap against Wales on Saturday and it’s been a quick rise to the top, earning just 11 caps before scoring a try in the Women’s World Cup semi-final against France.
Bern doubled her scoring tally against Italy in round one of the Six Nations last weekend, making her a prolific finisher in prop terms.
“I’ve only scored two in 16 so let’s not get carried away, but if I can keep that record going I won’t complain,” says Bern.
Related: Six Nations TV Coverage
England will face Wales in round two of the Six Nations at the Twickenham Stoop on Saturday as they chase a second consecutive Grand Slam title.
Two changes have been made by England – Charlotte Pearce is set to earn her first start on the wing while hooker Amy Cokayne returns to the starting line-up.
The Red Roses beat Wales 63-0 in Cardiff last year, but after a one-point win over Scotland in round one, the Welsh will be in high spirits crossing the Severn Bridge.
Bern adds: “Every team in the competition has improved this year and Wales will want to play right in our faces and disrupt the ball to stop us playing.”
Related: Women’s Six Nations Fixtures
Bern’s try was England’s solo score in the first half against Italy as they went into the break drawing 7-7, but they dominated the second period to win 42-7.
“I think it took longer for the team to click against Italy,” says Bern. “We’ve had a number of new young players come into the team which, mixed with some experienced ones, needed some adjusting.
“Training is always different to a match so it was important for us to play together and in the second half we really showed our understanding as a team and complemented each other.”
One veteran who has set an example for Bern is Rochelle Clark, commonly known as ‘Rocky’. Clark is England’s most-capped player of all time, representing the Red Roses 133 times and the 36-year-old prop has described Bern as a “box on legs”. Bern, who is 5ft 6in and weighs 90kg, doesn’t argue with the new name.
“Rocky looked at me in training last week and said ‘you’re just so big’. I find it funny and although I take my rugby career incredibly seriously, ultimately I’m here because I enjoy it. I want to have fun.”
Scotland have mixed things up for their game against France. Following the disappointing loss to Wales last weekend, captain Lisa Martin has been moved to fly-half from centre and Rachel Malcom has made the transition from hooker to blindside flanker for round two.
Having lost 55-0 against France in La Rochelle last year, Scotland can only improve. However, as many of the team are inexperienced and France are currently ranked third in the world, Scotland will need the home support as they play at Scotstoun for the first time in the Six Nations.
Ireland head coach Adam Griggs has made two changes to his team from the opening-round defeat to France last weekend.
Katie Fitzhenry has been called into the squad after representing Ireland at the Sydney Sevens and will start at outside-centre, while Paula Fitzpatrick starts in the second row.
Ireland have never lost to Italy in the Six Nations and, with home advantage, it should be the first Irish win of the campaign after losing 24-0 in France last week.
Women’s Six Nations Round Two Fixtures
Saturday 10 February England v Wales, 12:15pm, Twickenham Stoop, Live on Sky Sports
Saturday 10 February Scotland v France, 7:05pm, Scotstoun Stadium
Sunday 11 February Ireland v Italy, 1pm, Donnybrook, Live on RTE