Extra hours paying off as England prop Sarah Bern eyes World Cup glory

Sarah Bern refused to let her struggles with dyslexia hold her back during an all-action childhood… now the dynamic England prop is relishing the challenge of chasing World Cup glory

  • Sarah Bern will be a key figure in England’s bid for World Cup glory 
  • The 25-year-old, set to win her 50th cap, is the epitome of the modern prop 
  • The Red Roses face Australia in the World Cup quarter-final on Sunday 

Sarah Bern’s rugby journey began as soon as she was big enough to pick up a ball and escalated quickly at Esher High School.

The 25-year-old Red Roses prop, who faces Australia in the World Cup quarter-final on Sunday, would run to the gym at the crack of dawn before class. Hers was an all-action childhood, but one which did not come without its problems.

Bern struggled with dyslexia. When she was asked to read in class, Bern would hide. She found expressing herself difficult and preferred to fade into the shadows. Rugby was where she took centre stage.

Sarah Bern will be a key figure in England’s bid for World Cup glory in New Zealand

‘I struggled in classes like maths,’ she says. ‘If a teacher asked me to read out in class I’d literally put the book over my face. I’d shout, ‘No way!’ and I hated having to write. But I never let it hold me back. You can be perceived a certain way because of your reading and writing but I don’t believe in people being put into boxes. I realised from there nothing was going to come easy. I had to put extra hours in when I was in school and I did the same in sport to get in the best place I could be for rugby.’

Bern does not hide on the rugby field. She never has. Her talent was obvious from a young age, but so too was her dedication. 

Both traits have taken her to the top. On Sunday, Bern will win her 50th cap in a side bidding for World Cup glory.

‘I was really driven growing up and that’s something I’ve always had,’ Bern says. ‘There was nothing that was going to get in the way of me playing rugby. I’d go to bed at 7pm and get up at 6am and run to the gym. Then I’d run to school, then go to training all evening. People would wonder if I should be doing it because I was so young. I was doing every sport I could. If I had an injury, I’d try to see a physio and research rehab. I had a bar on the wall of the garage where I’d keep my dad’s weights.

The Red Roses prop faces Australia in the World Cup quarter-final on Sunday

‘If you think you are hurting, you can always do more. It’s about finding that extra 10 per cent. Someone doing the extra 10 per cent and someone else not can be the difference between winning and losing.’

Bern is the epitome of the modern prop, as comfortable scrummaging as she is sidestepping and scoring tries. 

In fact, she has a reputation for outrageous finishes. Her YouTube highlights reel is impressive.

‘My dad played volleyball and my sisters were into ballet,’ she smiles. ‘We were a very active family. ‘

Bern is the epitome of the modern prop, as comfortable scrummaging as she is scoring tries

Bern is now one of the cornerstones of Simon Middleton’s World Cup favourites. Their pool-stage opponents Fiji, France and South Africa have all been brushed aside, taking the team’s record-breaking winning run to 28 matches.

That sequence is likely to go to 29 against Australia. Bern, who was yellow carded in the 75-0 hammering of South Africa for a dangerous tackle after appearing as a substitute, comes back into head coach Middleton’s first-choice side. 

She was perhaps fortunate to escape a ban and a citing and has overcome a concussion worry.

Bern is relishing the World Cup stage in New Zealand. She watched on while on holiday in 2014 as team-mates Sarah Hunter and Emily Scarratt were part of the side that won that year’s tournament. Now, it is her turn to shine. 

‘From watching that World Cup, it was always my goal to play at that level,’ Bern adds. ‘I remember my dad saying, ‘That will be you one day’ and I was like, ‘No it won’t!’ It was inspiring. We are all passionate about women’s sport and pushing it forward.’

Sarah Bern is an ambassador for Umbro. Visit umbro.co.uk/rugby or follow @Umbro_Rugby on Instagram

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