Jade Konkel returns to boost Scotland’s Rugby World Cup qualifications hopes
Scotland’s chances of qualifying for Rugby World Cup 2021 have received a timely boost with the return of Jade Konkel to the squad.
The experienced No 8 missed the Women’s Six Nations after she stepped back from the sport to begin her training with the London Fire Brigade.
She returns for the World Cup Europe qualifiers which will be played as a round robin tournament in Parma later this month, with Scotland up against Spain, Ireland and hosts Italy. The top team will book a place in Pool B at Rugby World Cup 2021 while the runner-up will enter the Final Qualification Tournament.
Also returning to the Scotland squad are Sarah Bonar, who missed the Six Nations due to her commitments with the Royal Air Force, and captain Rachel Malcolm, who injured her knee in the opener against England in April and was forced to sit out the remainder of the tournament.
“Losing Rachel, Sarah and Jade was difficult, but with hindsight it’s been great to help develop players outwith the senior group,” said Bryan Easson, the Scotland coach. “We played against England, Italy and Wales with some inexperienced players, but bringing in experienced players now for the qualifiers is a huge fillip for everybody.
“Jade has been a big player for Scotland for so many years, so the experience she brings is excellent for us.
“When you look at it statistically, Jade is one of the main ball carriers in the Six Nations, not just for Scotland so what that does means that defenders will worry about her and it can leave space elsewhere.
“It gives us a chance to have a ball carrier who can hit the gainline hard, but also opening up space elsewhere and we have been working hard at skill development from 1-15 to gain momentum within our attack.
“Defensively she is an excellent tackler, she brings the dominance within that and to be able to have players like Jade in there on both sides of the ball helps everybody while mentally having someone of her experience around gives everyone a lift, the younger players look up to her.”
Scotland finished the truncated Six Nations tournament with a 27-20 win over Wales having lost their opening two matches, to England and Italy. Easson, who has included the uncapped Edinburgh University forward Eva Donaldson in his 28-strong squad, was impressed with aspects of his side’s play in the spring.
“We’ve worked really hard on ourselves,” he said. “We’ve highlighted areas we were pleased with and others that we needed to work on. We’ve not looked overly closely at the opposition, but we’re aware of what we’re going to be up against.
“We have made big strides. There were some real positive performances in the Six Nations and since then it’s been up to us to improve and bring back some players to make the squad even stronger.”
The fixtures for the qualifying tournament will be announced on Thursday. The winners will go into Pool B alongside the USA, Canada and an Asian qualifier. The runners-up enter the Final Qualification Tournament, the winners of which will go into Pool A with New Zealand, Australia and Wales.
Rugby World Cup 2021 is taking place in New Zealand in autumn 2022 but will retain the original title.