Six Nations for Women: England’s MarliePacker talks about her soft side

Marlie Packer runs with the ball
Marlie Packer has scored four tries during three games of the 2022 Women’s Six Nations
Venue: Stade Jean Dauger, Bayonne Date:Saturday, 30 April Kick-off:14:15 BST
Coverage: Watch on BBC Two; listen on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra, with live text commentary on the BBC Sport website & app.

Marlie Packer is a great example of a person who can be difficult to judge. She is aggressive, confrontational and happy to get riled up.

It is easy to jump to quick conclusions and miss the subtleties that make up the real picture.

The 32 year-old flanker has been a vocal and energetic presence among England's forwards. She has racked up statistics that have seen her win player of match in two of four Women's Six Nations victories.

She says that there is another side to the pitch than people see.

Packer is proud to talk about her role in growing English women's rugby. welcomed record crowds in recent weeks.

To ensure that the development of younger players continues, she also supports Sadia Kabeya (20-year-old flanker)

Apart from rugby, the back row only needs the slightest prompting to cheerfully discuss her 19 month-old son Oliver.

BBC Sport: “Not many people know me,” she says.

“My transition between rugby and Marlie on the pitch is very different. I am probably much more gentle than many people believe, and I have a very caring nature.

“Marlie on the pitch, the switch gets switched and it can be turned on and off very easily.”

Incredible stats don't really matter

After watching Packer tear through the opposition this year, fans can forgive Packer for her “caring nature”.

She has been a central part of three of England's four dominating Women's Six Nations wins. This will likely be the case again on Saturday when they try to claim a Grand Slam victory against an impressive France side.

England would be celebrating its 23rd win in succession – equalling their best ever run between 1992 and 1997 – and winning the fourth consecutive Six Nations title.

Packer has won nine of the tournament's turnovers so far, more than any other player. France's GaelleHermet is next on five.

Packer is second in the carries chart with 48, behind Jade Konkel of Scotland. She is third on the tries chart, with four, and she is third on the metres made standings, with 314.

This is all the more remarkable when you consider that she was not in England's squad for their match against Italy.

Packer jokes that these statistics will help her get a higher price in the Women’s Six Nations fantasy league. Although she started her career as a “mid-range” player initially, her true focus is taking the title.

She continued, “I could have some of the most impressive stats in all of the world, but that won't make us win – it doesn’t really matter.”

“I just want the best for England on the pitch.

“Work smarter than you work hard”

Packer seems to be the best version of herself on the pitch right now.

In 2018, she was worried about her future in the England squad. being found guilty of drink-driving.

She has been a vocal leader of the side since then and claims she has banished much of her “self-doubt”, which she had previously experienced on the rugby pitch.

She credits two people with the transformation in her life, both in autumn 2020.

Oliver is her son. Alex Martin, England's strength & conditioning coach, is the second.

Packer stated that Martin helped her believe in her rugby abilities again, helping to affirm “I am a really strong rugby player.”

Oliver's words: “When I was a professional rugby player, I would go home and think about it.”

Marlie, the mother, is what I see when I return home. I work smarter rather than working hard.

Packer eager for the “physical battle”

Packer may be open to sharing her soft side, but the World Cup winner is not afraid to share some hard truths.

She points out, however, that Oliver and Tash won't travel to New Zealand with their partner Tash for England's World Cup campaign. This is purely financial.

She explains, “We are professional rugby players, but we don’t get paid that much money. I’m not afraid of saying that.”

Packer is equally fearless when it comes to the Women's Six Nations' title partner. She said: “I'm never getting TikTok, and I don't have time for that either.”

Although Packer is a complicated character, most people are correct to their initial impression.

Saturday's Grand Slam final against France will be brutal. She cannot wait.

She says, “As a backrower, you always look forward that physical struggle.”

“Both teams will have a point. It is up to us to do our best work and let the score take care of itself.

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