Sarah Bern: We’d love to win the World Cup, but it’s also about making sure we’re getting better each week

The Red Roses are targeting another World Cup final when they face Canada on Saturday
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The Red Roses ran in seven tries in their quarter-final against Australia last Sunday. In wet conditions, they managed to extend their record-breaking run of Test wins to 29 in a row and now enter their ninth Rugby World Cup semi-final against Canada.

Sarah Bern has been here before. She was the youngest member of the squad that reached the last four in 2017 and she knows it won’t be easy but is relishing the challenge of playing the third-best team in the world rankings this weekend.

“They are a really strong side," she tells TRU. "They’ve been performing very well. They’ve got a good set-piece and some real running threats as well. It’s more of a case of asking ourselves what did we do well against Australia, how can we make it better and what do we need to improve on.

"Our role in this whole tournament is that we’d love to win, but it’s also about making sure we’re getting better each week. I know that sounds really cliché but that’s really how we look at it as a squad. That’s how we’ve grown throughout the tournament and hopefully we can continue to grow and put out a strong performance on Saturday. They’ve definitely got a lot of attacking threats but we’ve got to play our game and hopefully we’ll do well.”

When Bern played in her first World Cup back in 2017, she was only 21. The Bristol Bears prop has been on some journey since making her debut in Ireland five years ago. As one of the older players, despite only being 25, she’s been there to lend advice and support to the younger girls if required.

“I’d say I’m a medium senior player” she laughs. “It has changed over the years and is a little different. You have a lot more of an understanding. You may view things slightly differently and share your own knowledge too.

"I think this year’s World Cup has been very different for everyone though because it’s been a long time coming. I think it’s also a new experience because there’s now a quarter-final, one more game so it’s definitely changed.

"We’ve really just been coming together as a squad. People will have up and down days but the squad has been good at picking that up and supporting one another which has been really nice”.

Bern is currently rooming with World Player of the Year Zoe Aldcroft and she admits she can be a bit messy: “We’ve been roommates now since 2016. We went to Hartpury together before that so we’ve kind of grown up together. Zoe is messier than me but she keeps her mess on her side of the room. She also just loves to sleep! We’re very comfortable in each
other's company, she’s not a bad roommate at all”.

The Red Roses have been in New Zealand for over a month now so it’s been important to bond with one another off the rugby field as well as on it. England Rugby have documented many of their days off on social media and seeing dolphins has been the highlight for Bern.

“We went to the Bay Of Islands for a dolphin trip. That has probably (other than the rugby) been my favourite part of New Zealand! It’s so beautiful. It was a really nice team activity to do together. There’s loads of good food places too and loads of different coffee shops, especially as we’ve been in a different hotel each week.

"We really liked this coffee place called Little Albert. We were there every day for the last two weeks, but we’ve moved away now so he’s probably missing us! That was really good fun."

When asked if she was missing any home comforts, Bern says: “Going into a restaurant as they have a lot of food courts in New Zealand! I miss doing my own washing and cooking myself. I can’t wait to drive my car everywhere again too. I’m quite an independent person."

As the conversation draws to a close, we bring it back to the rugby as Bern reflects on what it felt like to win her 50th cap against the Wallaroos in Sunday's 41-5 success as well as running out alongside Sarah Hunter, who made her record-breaking 138th international appearance.

“It was a really special feeling running out and celebrating with all the girls, though I didn’t actually know I was running out until we were about to leave the changing room," Bern adds. "Harriet, our manager, went, 'oh, by the way, you’re going out first.' I was like, 'what?! Okay, where do I go and what do I do?!'

"I wasn’t really expecting to run out with Sarah but she is just phenomenal. She’s such an amazing person. It was quite daunting but so lovely to share that special day with her. Obviously, she’s had so many amazing caps. The tributes to her that we then saw after the game were absolutely phenomenal. To share that with her a little bit, that experience was really nice. It was just a nice celebration for her and everyone getting into the semi-final. It was really lovely”.

The two semi-finals this weekend contain the top four ranked teams in the world. Bern admits she hasn’t got a preference on who she’d rather play (France or New Zealand) in the final if the Red Roses were to get there. “I think the France-New Zealand game will be a hell of a game to watch, they’re both very strong teams.

"They’ve both performed brilliantly in this World Cup. I think that will be a really good battle to watch. Whoever makes it through, we’ll be happy to get there but all eyes are on the semi-final. If we don’t perform well in the semi-final, it [the final] might not be an option for us so we’ve really got to make sure we’re fully focused on this weekend and go out all guns blazing.

"That’s where we aspire to be but we’ve just got to really focus now."

Bern starts at tighthead prop on Saturday against Canada and you can tune in to watch her and the Red Roses in the first semi-final at 03.30 GMT on ITV followed by France v New Zealand at 06.30 GMT.