Why International Women's Day is something Scottish rugby star Jade Konkel is loud and proud about

Konkel has 43 caps for Scotland and is in the team against France this weekend (Instagram: Jade Konkel)
Konkel has 43 caps for Scotland and is in the team against France this weekend (Instagram: Jade Konkel)
16:32pm, Fri 06 Mar 2020
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As a powerful No 8, Harlequins and Scotland's Jade Konkel is well practised at knocking down obstacles and overcoming barriers.

And it is something she believes in off the field as well, as a champion and cheerleader of women's sport.

Konkel is therefore greatly looking forward to this Sunday - International Women's Day - and in an exclusive interview with NewsChain, explained why it means so much to her.

"I think it is so special and I love being able to read about all the amazing things women have done both at present and historically. It is important to remember how far women have come in so many different aspects and that advocacy is in fact still needed.

"I love reading all the motivational stories of various women, what they have set out to achieve and have achieved. 

"Look at the likes of the late Katherine Johnston [NASA], Michelle Obama, Judy Murray, Serena Williams, Rosa Parks, Princess Diana. 

"The rugby legends of Donna Kennedy, Catherine Spencer, Rachael Burford, Maggie Alphonsi - honestly - I could name lots but many people probably couldn’t.

"We need to keep hearing more stories to empower other females further. Women have come so far already but it is not over. It is so important to keep breaking down barriers. We need people to keep fighting, not just for what we believe in but for what we deserve.  

"It is important for us to be a collective voice to keep educating and broadening perceptions, challenging stereotypes and appreciating, noticing and respecting all the amazing things women have done and are continuing to do."

Konkel playing for Scotland in a recent match against Spain (Instagram: Jade Konkel)

As well as speaking out on women's rights, Konkel is a role model within the LGBT community. She recently shared her coming out story on Quins' social media and she’s been inundated with messages ever since.

"It was madness, I got so many messages, it was so unexpected. People were so supportive, the video got a lot of hits [on social media] and people would get in touch to say thank you for sharing your story and then they would share theirs.

"That was really nice, that people could share their story with me through a private message. It was really nice to be that person that people feel they can confide in.

"I think it's so important [to speak out about it] especially these days when women's sport is more visible. [It's important for] people who are role models, especially from a sexuality point of view, to say that it's normal and it's okay and that people can be themselves.

"That is huge and if that means I have to be that person then I'll be more than happy to as I'm fully aware of the struggles. The self-talk of not wanting to be [gay] and trying to change it. Hopefully I can keep telling people it's better when you're being yourself."

Konkel plays for Harlequins at club level (Instagram: Jade Konkel)

Research conducted by Harlequins found recently 69 per cent of male rugby players in Quins' catchment area had heard a team-mate use a homophobic slur over a period of two weeks.

Konkel says that this locker-room chat and negative societal stereotyping is why female players may feel more comfortable to come out than men.

"I suppose characteristics of the game, as bad as that is, rugby is physical and aggressive. This is where negative stereotypes comes into play. Some people wouldn't expect a man who is physical and aggressive, putting their body on the line for sport, to be gay. 

"Whereas the type of women in rugby, people think 'they must be butch they're playing rugby' so it comes down to negative stereotyping.

"It's about challenging those stereotypes if and when you hear them. When people use derogatory language, rather than laughing it off and making a joke of it and making it seem normal, I think that needs to be stamped out. 

"You don't want to hear those slurs [if you're gay] because it puts you in your box. I think it is really important to challenge stereotypes."

While she says her experience within rugby has been largely positive, she has experienced homophobia.

"When I came out I had people be like 'does that mean you fancy me?' and I'm like 'get over yourself, no it doesn't!'

"I lost so-called friends over it, but again to me they just clearly weren't friends in the first place and its none of their business really. I think you do experience it [homophobia] but you just have to educate people.

"People may not understand it and if you don't educate people about it they may stick with their ideology about it. Once you've explained it, if they're still being homophobic you just brush them aside and realise there are a million other brilliant people out there."

Konkel, right, with her fiancee Helen (Twitter: Jade Konkel)

One such brilliant person for Konkel is her partner Helen Roberts. She announced the couple's engagement in December

Both Konkel and Roberts planned to propose on the same day and they were both surprised.

"I couldn't believe it, my first words were stop it! I didn't say yes straight away, I said stop it!

"She used to tell me that she would never propose and so just so happened we did it on the same day. There's not relevance to that day either we just knew we were coming into a busy Six Nations period where I'd be away a lot over the next few months. 

"We planned a sunrise breakfast, the same as our third date, so I suggested a nice walk somewhere with a nice view. We made a breakfast picnic and a coffee and that was the plan, spending a last weekend together."

"When we were walking up the hill it was pitch black and I was like 'I don't think this is the right way' and I was getting really stressed! She carried on walking and it wasn't until later when she revealed she did a trial run with a work friend a few weeks before.

"Yeah [we both have engagement rings] and they are very similar as well. They are both gold but hers has a little pattern on it and they're roughly the same size as well!

"We have said for the wedding bands, as her engagement ring has a pattern on it, I'll get the wedding band with a pattern and she'll get a [plain one so we match]." 

Konkel and Helen are due to marry in 2022 (Instagram: Jade Konkel)

While they have secured a venue and started thinking about a guest list, the pair won’t marry until 2022. The reason? The Rugby World Cup next year.

"We don't know if we've qualified for the World Cup yet and wedding dates go very fast! 2022 has started to be booked up and we want a Saturday in June so you need to pick fast.

"We couldn't wait until September when the qualifiers are to then not know if we qualified and [if we do] the build up to the World Cup would be insane.

"If we don't qualify I don't really want to do anything in 2021 when I should've been at the World Cup. We thought long and hard about it and as much as we want to get married in 2021 as it's earlier, I think having happier memories in 2022 will outweigh everything!

"Hopefully we come away with World Cup qualification and there [will be] three great years ahead."

But before all that, it's back to normality and this weekend's Six Nations clash with France in Glasgow. 

"Last time we played France at home it was a really good game. We put on a massive defensive effort, gave away two penalty tries and it finished 24-0, which for us is actually not a bad score against France considering we fixed our scrum technique, so hopefully we won't give as many away to them this year."

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