Scotland missed out on the 2014 and 2017 editions of Rugby World Cup, depriving the tournament of one of the game’s standout talents: Jade Konkel.
But the barnstorming number eight is back in the mix after taking a sabbatical from the game and hoping to lead the charge towards New Zealand at the Rugby World Cup 2021 Europe Qualifier in Parma this month.
The winner of the round-robin tournament featuring Scotland, Italy, Ireland and Spain will take their place in Pool B alongside Canada and the USA, while the runner-up still has a chance to get to RWC 2021 via the Final Qualification Tournament.
Full tilt towards Monday.— Scottish Rugby (@Scotlandteam) September 8, 2021
If Scotland can replicate the sort of form that they showed in Konkel’s last test appearance, an epic 13-13 draw with France in October 2020, they will take some stopping.
Bryan Easson’s outfit kick off against tournament hosts Italy, a side they have been beaten by in their last five matches dating back to 2017. Victories against their next two opponents, Spain and Ireland, however, have come more recently.
“It’s three tough games, three games against opposition we’ll have to fight for 80 minutes and work for every single inch we make on that pitch,” she told the Official Scottish Rugby Podcast.
“But ultimately, we have beaten all of those oppositions before, over the last couple of years, we’re not talking 10 years ago.
“They have been such competitive games, you never know who is going to come out on top.”
In a good place
Konkel, who is nearing a half-century of caps for her country, believes Scotland have never had a better chance of qualifying.
“This will be the third time I’ve been involved in a qualifier but we have probably never been this ready,” she added.
“We are in a really good place for it so it is going to be a really exciting three weeks. We have got such an incredible squad and everyone is going to put their hand up.
“We’ve always been a really focused squad but there is definitely something different, you can tell everybody has their heads in the game and is switched on. It’s really, really good to see and to come back into.”
For Konkel, 27, it is a case of being thrown back in at the deep end.
Earlier this year, the Harlequins forward took a break from rugby training to concentrate on her new career as a firefighter in London and missed the Women’s Six Nations as a result.
“When I first came back, I felt a bit rusty but we have had some games in camp and a good chunk of time together,” she admitted.
“Playing against Italy (on Monday) is going to be a big shock to the system but I have been in the squad nine years now and I’d like to think I wouldn’t have lost that much.”