Italy Women’s head coach Andrea di Giandomenico has finalised his 28-strong squad for the Women’s Rugby World Cup in Ireland. It is the Azzurre’s first World Cup tournament in 15 years.
Italy’s results across the 2015 and 2016 Six Nations Championships, which included wins over Scotland (twice), France and Wales (twice), saw them qualify for the Women’s Rugby World Cup. They have been absent from the global competition since 2002.
Their Dublin-bound squad is captained by wily scrum half Sara Barattin, who is one of the most experienced members of the touring party. She has 71 caps to her name – just behind fellow backs Paola Zangirolami (72) and Veronica Schiavon (78) – while prop Elisa Cucchiella (62) and back rower Silvia Gaudino (67) have seen the most Test action up front.
The evergreen Schiavon and Gaudino are the only survivors from the 2002 Italian World Cup squad, whereas Colorno lock Sara Tounesi and outside back Aura Muzzo from Pordenone – the only uncapped players included by Andrea di Giandomenico – are just at the beginning of their international careers.
Padova’s Claudia Salvadego, who made her debut against Ireland in February, twice-capped Verona lock Valeria Fedrighi and Colorno out-half/centre Veronica Madia, who won her third cap in the spring, are also relatively recent additions.
Zangirolami, Salvadego, Valentina Ruzza, Elisa Giordano and Beatrice Rigoni all hail from Serie A champions Valsugana Rugby Padova, who recently won their third consecutive league title, while key backs Manuela Furlan and Michela Sillari helped Aylesford Bulls win their maiden English Women’s Premiership crown in April, with winger Sillari touching down twice.
Forwards Elisa Pillotti and Cecilia Zublena, along with Colorno back Elisa Bonaldo, were part of the recent training squad but miss out on selection for Italy’s long-awaited return to the World Cup stage. They finished 12th of the 16 competing nations at the 2002 tournament in Barcelona.
“We are very pleased with the squad that has come together,” said current head coach di Giandomenico. “All the girls who took part in the World Cup training camps have put in 100%, showing great determination throughout.”
He noted that the flexibility and versatility of some players was key in their selection for Ireland 2017, while adding: “In our next management meeting, we’ll look at various aspects in detail as we build towards our first game against the USA on August 9.
“We’re thrilled to be competing in the World Cup and the sense of anticipation is growing as each day passes. We are so proud to represent the entire Italian Women’s rugby community in a World Cup, a tournament that any athlete in any sport would want to participate in.”
Italian skipper Barattin (pictured above), who won her first cap in 2005, commented: “It’s hugely emotional to be able to represent Italy in a World Cup. Playing in this tournament is the crowning of a long journey with the team. Our World Cup preparations began after beating Scotland in Bologna last year, and we are looking forward to getting out on the pitch in Dublin.”
WRWC 2017 Fixtures:
Pool B –
USA v Italy, UCD Bowl, 4.30pm, Wednesday, August 9
England v Italy, Billings Park, UCD, 2.30pm, Sunday, August 13
Italy v Spain, UCD Bowl, 2.45pm, Thursday, August 17
For more on the 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup, visit the tournament website – www.rwcwomens.com. Buy your match tickets for #WRWC2017 now on www.ticketmaster.co.uk/wrwc2017 and www.ticketmaster.ie/wrwc2017.
Injury Replacement: Elisa Bonaldo (Rugby Colorno) has replaced Claudia Salvadego (Valsugana Rugby Padova) in the squad
ITALY WRWC 2017 Squad – Backs (12): Sara Barattin (Villorba Rugby) (capt), Elisa Bonaldo (Rugby Colorno), Beatrice Rigoni (Valsugana Rugby Padova), Veronica Schiavon (Yokohama TKM), Maria Grazia Cioffi (Rugby Colorno), Manuela Furlan (Harlequins), Veronica Madia (Rugby Colorno), Maria Magatti (Rugby Monza 1949), Aura Muzzo (Pordenone Rugby) *, Michela Sillari (Harlequins), Sofia Stefan (Stade Rennais), Paola Zangirolami (Valsugana Rugby Padova).
Forwards (16): Elisa Cucchiella (Rugby Belve Neroverdi), Marta Ferrari (Stade Rennais), Lucia Gai (Stade Rennais), Gaia Giacomoli (Rugby Colorno), Melissa Bettoni (Stade Rennais), Lucia Cammarano (Asd Rugby Monza 1949), Valeria Fedrighi (Verona Rugby), Valentina Ruzza (Valsugana Rugby Padova), Flavia Severin (Benetton Treviso), Sara Tounesi (Rugby Colorno) *, Alice Trevisan (Rugby Riviera 1975), Ilaria Arrighetti (Stade Rennais), Michela Este (Benetton Treviso), Silvia Gaudino (Rugby Monza 1949), Elisa Giordano (Valsugana Rugby Padova), Isabella Locatelli (Rugby Monza 1949).
* Denotes uncapped player