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From considering quitting to star player: Beckett's tough journey back

Beckett was a stalwart of the Red Roses side prior to the World Cup
Beckett was a stalwart of the Red Roses side prior to the World Cup (©INPHO/Tom Maher)

There was a time six months ago when Sarah Beckett was questioning whether she wanted to keep playing rugby, writes Sportsbeat's Milly McEvoy.

Left out of the 2021 Rugby World Cup squad, the 24-year-old pushed through hard times and forced a return to the England team.

The decision paid dividends against Ireland last weekend as she was named TikTok Player of the Match.

She will again start in the Red Roses' second row as they take on France in a Grand Slam decider in front of a potential record crowd - a world away from where Beckett was last year.

"It was a dark time, if I'm honest, it wasn't a good time at all," the Gloucester-Hartpury player said. "I didn't enjoy it.

"But I think that made me reflect and it made me really ground myself and look at why I wanted to play the game.

"I went through a massive period of wondering whether I wanted to play again and I think I made a decision that this is what I want to do, and I want to come out and maybe prove a few people wrong, and just get back to doing what I love.

"I found a new lease of life and am loving the game again and I just want to take any opportunity if I've got one and I feel like I have taken it, so I am very happy."

Beckett made her England debut in November 2018 before going on to play in every game of the 2019 Women's Six Nations as the Red Roses won the Grand Slam.

The former Harlequins and Firwood Waterloo star highlighted the importance of her family for getting her through tough times.

She added: "My family, massive credit to them, I think they played a massive part, and I don't think our families get enough credit for what they help us through.

"Sport can be really tough, it can be a very cruel mistress and they've massively helped me through that.

"I was very fortunate to have Mo [Natasha] Hunt in the same position as me. I would never wish that on anybody but to have each other as we were going through that was massive.

"And I was just delighted to see her back out there again against Ireland and to be able to enjoy playing in a white shirt together again."

Six Nations Rugby, the official organising body responsible for the TikTok Women's Six Nations, broke all fan engagement records in 2022 and highlighted its commitment to giving the women's game the best possible platform to grow.

The 2023 edition of the Championship stands to build on this progress, with even bigger crowds expected, more international broadcasters covering all the action and unprecedented social and digital promotion for the heroes of the women's game.

Head coach Simon Middleton has held Beckett up as the model example of someone looking to return to the Red Roses set-up, showing renewed faith as he selected her in the starting XV to take on Les Bleues.

He said: "The players know what they're up against in terms of the competition so it's about being the best version of yourself consistently, working within the plan of the game.

"You try to use words like patience, but they don't want to be patient because they want to be in and playing.

"And what has been reflected in Becks is what you want to see, someone who's very unhappy at not being selected but goes about it in the right way, by getting herself into great shape, playing as hard as she can."

With most people's attention now on England going for a fifth consecutive Six Nations title, and a fourth Grand Slam in five years, Beckett is simply enjoying being back in the fold.

She said: "I think for me, I just want to be back playing in a white shirt. Obviously, winning is great, but I'm just enjoying every opportunity I'm getting at the moment."

For all the latest TikTok Women's Six Nations news, information, and details on how to watch the Championship, visit: https://womens.sixnationsrugby.com/