The opening weekend of the Women’s Six Nations sees last year’s runners up Italy travel to Wales on Sunday afternoon.
Andrea Di Giandomenico’s team are certainly a team on the up in the Women’s Six Nations, with 2019 a historic year for Italy given it was their best-ever finish in the Championship.
For Wales, who finished a disappointing fourth last year, the aim is to return to the upper reaches of the standings.
Chris Horsman, Geraint Lewis and Gareth Wyatt take charge of the side and they have put their faith in young talent with the hope of establishing a new generation of stars.
What they said
Wales coach Chris Horsman said: “Italy has always been a key match for us and this Sunday will be no different.
“It will be a tough game with no hiding place. We have asked a lot of the players, increasing the intensity of training and they’ve met the challenge head on.
“The aim of that is not only to perform under pressure during the Six Nations but also, longer term, to close the gap on teams above us in the world rankings.
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“We are concentrating on ourselves and this week, not looking beyond the challenge of Italy on Sunday.”
Italy coach Andrea Di Giandomenico said: “We have a group made up of experienced and young players who want to establish themselves in the Italian and international rugby scene.
“We work constantly to improve and to be ready for the first game against Wales. We have several players with good leadership who are able to support the team.”
Key battle – Bethan Lewis v Giada Franco
Welsh flanker Bethan Lewis made her international debut two years ago and she hasn’t looked back since, starting in all but one Test following that point.
The 20-year-old has proven herself a rock in defence over those two years as well as a try scorer, with two crucial scores coming in last year’s Women’s Six Nations victories over Scotland and Ireland.
Her opposite number, Giada Franco, started all of Italy’s Women’s Six Nations fixtures in 2019 and she dotted down twice during that Championship too – it could well be an almighty tussle between this pair.
- Wales have only beaten Italy once since 2013 in the Women’s Six Nations
- The two teams threw up a 3-3 draw in Leece last year
- Wales last beat Italy at home in the Women’s Six Nations in 2012
Wales: 15. Kayleigh Powell, 14. Jasmine Joyce, 13. Hannah Jones, 12. Kerin Lake, 11. Lisa Neumann, 10. Robyn Wilkins, 9. Keira Bevan, 1. Gwenllian Pyrs, 2. Kelsey Jones, 3. Cerys Hale, 4. Natalia John, 5. Gwen Crabb, 6. Alex Callender, 7. Bethan Lewis, 8. Siwan Lillicrap (c)
Replacements: 16. Molly Kelly, 17. Cara Hope, 18. Ruth Lewis, 19. Georgia Evans, 20. Alisha Butchers, 21. Manon Johnes, 22. Ffion Lewis, 23. Paige Randall
Italy: 15. Vittoria Ostuni Minuzzi, 14. Maria Magatti, 13. Michela Sillari, 12. Beatrice Capomaggi, 11. Sofia Stefan, 10. Beatrice Rigoni, 9. Sara Barattin, 1. Silvia Turani, 2. Melissa Bettoni, 3. Lucia Gai, 4. Valeria Fedrighi, 5. Giordana Duca, 6. Ilaria Arrighetti, 7. Giada Franco, 8. Elisa Giordano (c)
Replacements: 16. Giulia Cerato, 17. Erika Skofca, 18. Michela Merlo, 19. Sara Tounesi, 20. Lucia Cammarano, 21. Francesca Sgorbini, 22. Laura Paganini, 23. Benedetta Mancini