Sarah Bern mastered her craft by learning from the very best growing up and now wants to ramp up women and girls’ access to the highest quality coaching and officiating pathways across the country.
Maggie Alphonsi and Danielle Waterman coached the 26-year-old Red Roses prop on her journey to the top and she insists it was one-to-one sessions that made her the player and person she is today.
The RFU’s Women in Rugby Conference, held at Shaftesbury Park, brought together 100 aspirational female coaches and referees currently in training as unprecedented numbers signed up to the England Rugby Award Courses.
The inspirational day centred on building connections to help participants through their training, including working with specialist RFU coaching and refereeing teams and hearing from guest speakers.
Bern said, “I was really lucky growing up, we had Maggie Alphonsi as a development officer, so I had a lot of one-to-one sessions with her and then Nolli at Hartpury College.
“Being young, it was great to aspire to Maggie and Nolli who were the best in the world at the time that they were playing for England.
“To narrow those gender gaps is really important, whether that be professional women playing the sport, referees, or coaching.
“I struggle to understand why gender has such a big role in people accessing sport and being involved so I’m always such a big advocate for it.
“If anyone grows up and thinks they want to play women’s rugby but then they try it and don’t think it’s for them, they can still be involved as a referee.
“That’s massive to be part of the team and the rugby family in a way that people haven’t recognised before.”
Bern was advocating for the RFU’s Coach & Match Official Programme which is focusing on building up a female coach and official workforce to cater for a surge women’s rugby players.
The programme is a strand of the 2025 Rugby World Cup Impact Programme, which aims to attract 1,000 more female coaches and 500 more match officials to the game by summer 2025.
The prop, who is often regarded as the best tighthead in the world, gave the programmes her full backing and was encouraged by the positive outcomes of the wider project ahead of next summer and beyond.
She said, “It’s meant a lot to me to see where rugby has come from when I was younger and when the resources weren’t there.
“Although my coaches did a great job, it’s great to see how good these coaches and referees will be with these resources and how specifically delivered they are to women.
“It’s been amazing to have a trip down memory lane and remember how important it is to value good coaching and officiating.”
The England vs. Wales game at Ashton Gate tickets are priced from £5 for Juniors and £15 for Adults, and the England vs. Ireland game at Twickenham are priced from £5 for Juniors and £20 for Adults
Image: RFU via Beat Media Group