Scotland’s star female rugby player Jade Konkel is excited about where the sport in this country can go over the next decade after she joined one of England’s biggest clubs and the number of contracted Scottish players doubled to eight.
No 8 Konkel will be playing for Harlequins in England’s Tyrrells Premier 15s competition during 2018/19 once she recovers from a shoulder injury.
The 24-year-old, who was also used at prop by Scotland at times last term, has spent the last year playing in France alongside fellow Scots Lisa Thomson and Chloe Rollie for Lille Metropole Rugby Club Villeneuvois (LMRCV).
Going forward, full-back Rollie is staying at LMRCV with centre Thomson having moved to Darlington Mowden Park.
As well as the trio, who were already contracted to Scottish Rugby, national team captain Lisa Martin, Helen Nelson, Sarah Bonar, Megan Kennedy and Lana Skeldon have all been handed contracts.
With Sarah Law moving back to being a BT Academy supported player as she recovers from injury it means that there are now eight full-time Scottish players.
Stand-off/centre Martin will join Rollie at LMRCV while fellow back Nelson will be playing for Montpellier
Second-row/back-row Bonar will stay at Premier 15s outfit Loughborough Lightning and prop Kennedy and hooker Skeldon will stay at Stirling County and Watsonians respectively in the Scottish top flight.
The new deals - known as ‘2021 contracts’ - are to provide players with financial support to facilitate training and playing with the aim of securing qualification for the Rugby World Cup in 2021.
Konkel said of the doubling of contracted players: “When I became the first contracted female player with Scottish Rugby back in 2016 I knew there would be more to come, but I could not have imagined there would be eight of us by now.
“The eight of us have to use the opportunities we have to lead the way towards the next World Cup.
“And looking beyond 2021, there are going to be a whole host of opportunities for female Scottish players over the next 10 years or so, it is very exciting to see where things can go.”
Konkel is now settling in at her new club in the west of London and going through rehab after an operation - and her rise to a side that finished second in the Premier 15s competition last year has been sharp.
Brought up in the Black Isle, as a teenager she used to drive to Glasgow to play matches for Hillhead/Jordanhill and in 2013 she made her Scotland debut off the bench.
She then became the country’s first ever female contracted player in 2016 and, as mentioned, was testing herself in the French top division in 2017/18.
“Wow, I learnt so much in France both on and off the pitch that it is hard to sum up everything that I took away from that spell,” the hard hitting player with 32 international caps under her belt said.
“I think the physicality over there really helped me, and my offloading game has come on a lot.
“Having watched tapes of Harlequins playing last year they like to play an offloading game and hopefully I can augment them in that respect and also bring the physical side of my game and a lot of ball carrying to the party.
“Karen Findlay, who was the Scotland coach when I made my debut five years ago, is on the ‘Quins coaching staff while my Scotland team mate Deborah McCormack is here so I have settled in quickly.
“The standard of the Tyrrells Premier 15s is getting higher all the time and it is great to see a crop of Scots down south now looking to make our mark.”