There are few better sights in rugby than seeing a forward charging at full pelt, ball in hand, bouncing off tackles left, right and centre.
The modern era of the game has been privileged to see some of the best exponents of this, from Sergio Parisse to Safi N’Diaye and Lawrence Dallaglio to Sarah Bern.
Another who certainly deserves to be mentioned in the same breath is Scotland’s Jade Konkel.
Since making her international debut in 2013, the caytoo athlete has developed a reputation as one of the finest back rowers in the game and been a significant driving force behind her country’s recent resurgence.
Konkel may be a very friendly individual off the pitch but on it she’s a warrior, with her intimidating physical presence in both defence and attack enough to worry the best opposition.
But a few years ago even making one appearance for her country seemed unobtainable for an individual who grew up doting on the game but had little opportunity to play in her hometown of Inverness in the Highlands.
“I played for one year in a mini boys team when I was about nine but after that there was no rugby,” the 25-year-old recalled.
“I only played rugby maybe a few times a year for random teams around Scotland when I was growing up.
“I remember being at a camp once and they said put your hand up if you’re going to play for Scotland and I didn’t because I thought I don’t play rugby, I don’t really know anything about it and there’s no rugby where I’m from so I’m not going to put my hand up and something think about something when it’s never going to happen.
“Basketball was my main sport [she represented Highlands in the National League] until I was about 17, when I’d had enough of watching my brothers and my Dad play rugby – I wanted to play too.
“I was fed up with wrestling with my brothers in the garden or fighting off my sister trying to pluck my eyebrows. That’s when I decided I was going to make the long trips down to Glasgow and Edinburgh so I could play more.”
Fast forward a few years and not only is Konkel a key member of her international team, she also became Scotland’s first full-time professional female back in 2016.
Her love for the game has never diminished. If anything, it’s grown even stronger.
I’ll forever be in debt to rugby. Finding the words to express how much it means to me to play this sport and play this sport for my country is tough. This sport has given me confidence, discipline & motivation. It teaches us how to persevere and deal with adversity. #AsOne pic.twitter.com/TbXtbaLP9a
— Jade Konkel (@JadeKonkel) November 28, 2018
“Rugby is literally everything to me. I eat, sleep and breathe rugby. Everything I do goes towards rugby,” the former Lille Metropole Rugby Club Villeneuvois player stated.
“You can’t articulate how much it means to play for your country.
“Some people don’t get that opportunity so you have to take every single game you can and play your heart out for 80 minutes because you want to do everything you can for your country.”
Such is her love for the sport that Konkel even has one of her proudest memories adorning her arm in amongst an impressive array of artwork.
“It was my very first win in the Six Nations against Wales in 2017,” she explained.
“I got that picture tattooed because I’d been close to winning before, we’d progressed every year and it is a reminder that you stick through the hard times and if you make little improvements eventually big things will occur. That was a massive thing for me and that picture really got for me.
“My tattoos are me literally wearing my heart on my sleeve so I couldn’t not have something to do with that special moment.”
Away from her obvious talent, another of Konkel’s vast array of impressive qualities is how switched on she is away from the pitch.
She is very aware that rugby isn’t forever and that one day she will have to make a living in some other way.
At a time where the English Institute of Sport has launched it’s #More2Me campaign teaching athletes how to prepare for retirement by studying whilst training and exploring other interests, Konkel is already well ahead of the game.
A qualified personal trainer, she joined forces with fellow Harlequins player Holly Myers to create Apex Training & Performance, an online platform where they will educate people how to live healthy lifestyles by helping them create individual training and nutritional plans that are specifically catered to fit their individual lifestyle.
🙌 Jade Konkel and Holly Myers have started their own personal training business, Apex Training and Performance
💪 Game Changers on and off the field!
— Harlequins Ladies 🃏 (@HarlequinsWomen) February 27, 2019
It’s not just healthy lifestyles where Konkel wants to have an impact on the lives of others though.
She wants to use what she has experienced in sport to inspire people to power through the tough times, something she often does through motivational posts on her social media channels.
“The power of sport is absolutely amazing,” she enthused.
“What you learn from it – the adversity, the resilience, having to have a teancious approach to things – it creates and shapes you as a person.
“The way sport does it is so different to any other thing in life. I try to help by just showing that we’re human and what you can learn from the adversity and the setbacks is so much more than just thinking that you’re whole world is crumbling, understanding that it’s alright for it to be difficult and it’s alright to face these challenges and for you to think it’s hard.
“It might help one person, it might help ten people – it’s just to show that everyone is human and we can get through different setbacks and that some of them are for the better because it builds us and teaches us to be more resilient in many different aspects.”