Sarah Beckett previews the upcoming TikTok Women’s Six Nations
With the TikTok Women’s Six Nations kicking off this Saturday, we at Wooden Spoon were lucky enough to sit down with Harlequins and Red Roses star Sarah Beckett to hear how preparation has been going and preview the upcoming tournament.
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WS: Hi Sarah, first things first, it’s great to see you back from injury and in such fine form for Harlequins so far this season. Tell us, how has preparation been for the upcoming Six Nations in Red Roses camp?
SB: Thank you, I’m loving being back! Preparation has been really good thanks. We’ve been in camp over the last three weeks and it’s been tough, very tough actually, but the prep has been going well and the group are coming together nicely.
WS: Obviously we are hoping to be coming towards the end of the ‘Covid era’ of rugby, but how has Covid affected your preparation in camp?
SB: We’re still having to test multiple times a week and we are very aware, that there’s been a spike in cases in the community recently so there’s just been an emphasis on us as a group making sensible decisions and trying to stay as safe as possible when we are outside of camp as well. Our preparation hasn’t been too heavily affected at all by Covid and we are all hoping that the tournament is as undisrupted as possible this year.
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WS: Last year we saw the Women’s Six Nations moved from running alongside the Men’s competition to its own window due to Covid. The decision has been made to keep the separate window for the Women’s competition this year and going forward, what do you think of this?
SB: I think it’s a massive positive. We saw from the forced rescheduling last year that our media coverage went up tenfold, our viewing figures were much higher than they have been previously and now rugby fans don’t have to make a choice as to whether they want to go to, or watch, the men’s or women’s match, they can do both, and hopefully this will mean an increase in viewers both on the tv and in person. The standard of women’s rugby is only improving year on year and the fact we now have our own window to showcase that in the international rugby calendar is a really special thing.
— TikTok Women’s Six Nations (@Womens6Nations) March 21, 2022
WS: Also new for this year is the competition’s title sponsor TikTok. How important do you think having a global brand like that attach themselves to women’s rugby is for the sport?
SB: It’s huge. TikTok have come on board and now you’re seeing even some of the older girls in the squad downloading the app and making TikToks, even though they swore they’d never do it. Then off the back of that you get the huge exposure that comes with women’s rugby and especially the Women’s Six Nations popping up on people’s ‘for you’ pages. That’s bringing new eyes to the sport who would otherwise maybe not see it and will hopefully help generate some increased interest in this year’s tournament and the wider game in general. Also, hopefully having one huge global sponsor like this will show other global brands how much value there is in both women’s rugby, and women’s sport in general, and encourage other global brands to come on board which is what we need to help grow the game even more.
@bcleall Travel Day with the Red Roses. One looonnngg bus to Edinburgh #bus #redroses #rugby #rugbyunion #travelday #sixnations #gameweek #tiktoksixnations #scotland #edinburgh ♬ Mood (feat. iann dior) – 24kGoldn
WS: You mentioned some of the ‘older girls’ downloading TikTok, so we have to ask, who are the best ‘TikTokers’ in camp, and who still has a lot to learn?
SB: Bryony Cleall has actually got a big following, but she’s constantly got her phone out taking videos. I had to have a word with Shaunagh Brown at the start because some of her TikToks were God awful, but she seems to have learned a bit now. Mostly it’s been some of the older girls who are newer to the app just asking how to use it, so there’s been a lot of ‘TikTok tutorials’ going on in camp when we haven’t been on field, in the gym, or in meetings.
@shaunaghbrown We get the pleasure of working with The one and only British and Irish Lions rugby legend Adam Jones #Rugby #Coach #Coaching #WomensSports ♬ original sound – Shaunagh Brown
WS: That’s brilliant to hear! Back to the rugby though now, we’ve just seen a very dominant French side romp to a Grand Slam in the men’s Six Nations, while, for the most part, playing a very attractive brand of rugby. Do you expect we will see similar from the French women also?
SB: Well I hope not on the dominance point. I’d hope we can throw a spanner in the works for any plans they have of dominance. Attractive rugby though, that’s what we all want to see. We all know how the French play, with their signature flare and risk taking. Sometimes it comes off, sometimes it doesn’t, but we’ve seen with the French men what a brilliant job Shaun Edwards has done with their defence. He’s really shored them up and that’s meant that when the risks don’t come off in attack, it doesn’t hurt them as much as maybe it has in the past. The French women like to play an expansive game and it’s going to be a tough job for us, and the other four Nations, to try and shut that down.
WS: Obviously, we are in a Women’s World Cup year with the rearranged 2021 tournament being played in New Zealand this winter. How important is this Six Nations campaign in the Red Roses preparation for the World Cup?
SB: It’s massively important. It’s our last opportunity to play competitive fixtures before we go to New Zealand and hopefully win the World Cup. It’s an opportunity for individuals to put their hands up for selection for that World Cup squad also. There’s a huge amount of talent in England, both in and outside of our elite player squad and deciding who to take to the New Zealand is going to be a massive challenge for the coaches I’ve no doubt. Then for us as a squad, France are in our world cup group so obviously playing them so close to the tournament is massive. We’ve beaten them the last seven times we’ve played them and if we can make that eight heading into the World Cup, that will be a huge psychological boost for us and a dent in their confidence I think.
WS: The Red Roses are currently on an 18 game unbeaten streak. How much confidence does that give you going into this year’s Six Nations tournament?
SB: We don’t talk about it too much. I wasn’t actually aware of the streak until the media made us aware of it, we very much focus on our next job rather than looking at the past. It’s really important to keep our confidence levels high though and obviously coming off that number of wins in a row does help with that. We had a good Autumn Internationals campaign but we weren’t perfect, we made plenty of errors and we are very much focussing on improving in those areas going into the Six Nations this year. We know we have a big target on our back being the number one ranked team in the world right now and know we have to keep improving in order to stay there.
WS: Finally Sarah, could you please just give us your player to watch for each team in this year’s Women’s Six Nations tournament?
SB: For Italy, their inside centre, Beatrice Rigoni. She has a huge influence on their game and the majority of it goes through her. She’s a big presence in midfield and is capable of producing some very special moments. Wales’s player to watch has to be Lleucu George. She’s been brilliant at fly half all season for Gloucester Hartpury in the Allianz Premier 15s and has utilised the new 50:22 law better than anyone I’ve seen. Opposition back threes will have their hands full with her kicking game and she controls a game brilliantly. Scottish second tow Emma Wassell has been in excellent form all season for Loughborough Lightning and is key in the engine room of that Scottish pack. She will be hugely important for them if they want to continue the momentum they picked up from their recent World Cup qualifiers. Another second row to watch is Nichola Fryday for Ireland. New to the role of captain after Ciara Griffin’s retirement, it will be interesting to see how she leads and what direction she will steer the Irish in. For France, young prop Rose Bernadou has a great skillset and is a very strong scrummager. They will need a strong set piece off which they can launch their dangerous attack. Finally, for England, Maud Muir. Another young prop who can play both sides of the scrum, and incredibly impressively, even hooker as well. She’s an explosive ball carrier and hits hard in defence, combine this with her strong set piece and she’s perfect for the way we want to play.
WS: Thank you Sarah, and good luck for the tournament!