Six Nations of Women: England’s Marlie Parker discusses her soft side

RonaldHolding

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.

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The 32-year old flanker is a loud and energetic presence in England’s forwards. She has accumulated statistics that have allowed her to win player of the match in two Red Roses’ Women’s Six Nations wins.

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

Packer speaks with pride about her contribution to the growth of English women’s rugby, which has attracted record crowds over recent weeks.

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

The back row, aside from rugby, needs no prompting to talk happily about her 19-month old son Oliver.

She tells BBC Sport that “not many people really know me.”

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Amazing stats “don’t matter”

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

She was a key player in England’s three dominant Women’s Six Nations wins, and she will be again when they attempt to win a Grand Slam against a formidable France team on Saturday.

England would win its 23rd consecutive victory – equalling their best run since 1992-97 – and the fourth 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, along with Jade Konkel from Scotland, has the most carries at 48. With four tries, she is third and with 314, she is the third-highest in metres made.

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

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Packer jokes about how these statistics will increase her price in Women’s Six Nations fantasy league. She started as a “midrange” player but her real focus is on winning the title.

“Work smarter than you work hard”

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

After being convicted of drink driving, she was worried about her future in the England squad in 2018.

She has been a vocal leader of the side since then and claims she has lost a lot of her “self-doubt” that she had previously experienced on the rugby pitch.

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

Oliver, her son, is the first. Alex Martin is England’s strength- and conditioning coach.

Packer is excited for the ‘physical fight’

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

She mentions that Oliver and Tash won’t be able to travel to New Zealand to support England’s World Cup campaign in October because of financial reasons.

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 in discussing the Women’s Six Nations’ new title partnership, saying: “I’m not going to get TikTok and it’s too time-consuming.”

Although Packer is complex, the majority of people have a good impression of her.

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

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

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