It’s probably not hyperbole to suggest that Scotland’s 13-13 draw with France at Scotstoun Stadium last Sunday was one of the most eye-catching results in international women’s rugby in recent years.
Consider these facts. In the past nine years, the aggregate scoreline when the teams met was 409-16 to France. For a six-year period between 2012-18, the Scots did not score a single point.
To further emphasise the supposed gulf between the teams, Scotland began the day ranked seven places lower than Les Bleues in the World Rugby Women’s Rankings and were without a win to their name in the fixture since 2010.
Jade Konkel has endured more than her fair share of heavy beatings at the hands of the three-time Women’s Six Nations champions, so to even get to parity was a sweet moment for the long-serving number eight.
“It’s pretty mad when you put it like that,” when the damning statistics were read out to her. “I’ve played since 2013 so I’ve been on the end of the receiving end of a lot of those losses.
“I remember in 2013, I was playing six in my very first year and was quite young and inexperienced and our captain Susie Brown went off at half-time because she was ill and I moved to number eight. It was the first I played there, and it was against Safi (N’Diaye), and she swatted me away like a little fly, I was like nothing to her.
“To build up over the years to where we are now – to actually competing against the French – is fantastic, especially after such a long lay-off.”
Flicking the switch
Konkel set up the 73rd-minute try scored by Rachel Shankland that helped the Scots bounce back from a 13-3 deficit early in the second half and earn a share of the spoils.
“In the past, I suppose, we have been quite bad for letting our heads go down and having that mentality of ‘here we go again.’
“But every time something happened on the pitch this time, there was a different feeling, we regrouped well and communicated well, and we used our buzzwords to flick a switch and enable us to go again.
“I think we showed we are not going to give up easily. It is a huge positive that we can take away from the game, that we came back from being down, especially against such a physical and well-renowned team.”
Respect for Wales
Scotland take on bottom-of-the-table Wales at Cardiff City Stadium this Sunday before completing their Six Nations campaign a month later against Italy. The Italy game also doubles as an RWC 2021 qualifier.
While Wales have yet to win a single game and Italy are only one point above them in the Six Nations table, Konkel insists Scotland won’t be taking anything for granted.
“This weekend goes to show you can’t under-estimate anyone, so we definitely won’t under-estimate Wales.
“Yes, they have lost all the games they have played so far but we know perfectly well that they will come out hard, especially based on our performance at the weekend.
“They’ll have watched that and not want to give us a single inch.
“We’ve definitely taken a load of positives from the weekend. But the Wales game is a new game and we’ll reset and get ready to go again and continue to show the strides we are making leading up nicely to December when we play the Italians, which again will be a really tough match.
“They are always tough opponents for us, so we are just taking it each game as it comes, and we’ll keep working on what we can control.”
Third time lucky?
Qualification for Rugby World Cup 2021 would fulfil a long-held goal for Konkel, who has seven years of international rugby behind her even though she only turns 27 in December, but has yet to appear on the game’s biggest stage with Scotland having last qualified for the 2010 edition.
“I’ve played for many years and never had the opportunity. In 2013, Spain and Samoa were in the European qualifiers, and the top two teams went through, and we came third. It is quite a sore point for me considering a non-European team made it through the European qualifiers. But that was the decision and you just have to get on with it.
“For the next qualifiers, I’d had shoulder surgery, so I wasn’t available to play and I commentated on them instead, it was Spain home and away, and I think we lost out by a try and a conversion.
“Then this year, they’ve stepped up the qualification process and made it even more difficult, but it will make it all the sweeter if we do qualify. I am really striving to go to the next one.”
Photo credit: SNS Group / Scottish Rugby