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World Cup Lowdown: Italy

World Cup Lowdown: Italy

Italy go into the Rugby World Cup 2021 in New Zealand in a better place to succeed than they ever have before.

A plate semi-final defeat to Canada at the inaugural competition in Cardiff 21 years ago is still technically their best result on the world’s biggest stage.

But they will not be satisfied by an eighth-place finish this time around, with Le Azzurre ranked fifth in the world, their highest ever position.

And for the first time, 25 players will fly to the other side of the world on part-time centralised contracts after the FIR took the important step towards professionalism in April.


Following a strong finish to the 2022 TikTok Women’s Six Nations in which Italy recorded two wins over Scotland and Wales, they faced six-time semi-finalists France in a World Cup warm-up double header.

In the first match held in Nice, France racked up a commanding 21-0 first-half lead before keeping the visitors at arm’s length for the duration of a scoreless second half.

The return leg in Biella was a different story, with the home side recording just their fifth ever victory against Les Bleues with a 26-19 triumph.

Italy showed great spirit to fightback from 14-0 down to find themselves level in the closing stages.

A decisive penalty try with five minutes to go sealed the win and Andrea Di Giandomenico’s charges will take renewed confidence going into their opener against the USA on Sunday.

How they qualified

Ireland and Italy Women will look to claim a spot at the World Cup

Having finished ninth at the previous edition in Ireland five years ago, Italy weren’t guaranteed a spot in New Zealand.

Up against TikTok Women’s Six Nations rivals Ireland and Scotland as well as former participants Spain, Le Azzurre clinched two critical bonus point wins over the latter two to finish top of the European Qualification Tournament.

A worrying 15-7 defeat to Ireland was ultimately inconsequential, as Scotland were the side forced into the repechage tournament.

Key players


Beatrice Rigoni and Manuela Furlan

The midfield pairing of Beatrice Rigoni and Michela Sillari is one of Italy’s biggest threats this year.

They boast over 120 international caps between them and complement each other superbly, with Rigoni a tackling machine, making the second most of any back at the 2022 TikTok Women’s Six Nations.

Sillari, on the other hand, offers a cool head and a dependable boot after slotting all eight of her kicks in the same Championship.

Beatrice Rigoni: My Rugby Story

Winger Maria Magatti was the only back to exceed Rigoni’s tackle tally as the 30-year-old played every minute in Italy’s fifth-place finish.

Watch out for hooker Melissa Bettoni too, who brings experience and a significant try threat to a well-balanced team.

Squad news

Fears that long-serving captain Manuela Furlan would miss the World Cup after suffering a knee injury against France were allayed when Di Giandomenico announced his 32-player squad.

The veteran was included, as was sole centurion Sara Barattin and Stade Rennais’ 29-year-old back rower Ilaria Arrighetti.

Exciting young centre Alyssa D’Inca is given the nod too, after her superb showing at this year’s Championship, while winger Sofia Rolfi could make her international debut in New Zealand.

Forwards: Francesca Barro, Lucia Gai, Gaia Maris, Michela Merlo, Sara Seye, Emanuela Stecca, Silvia Turani, Melissa Bettoni, Vittoria Vecchini, Giordana Duca, Valeria Fedrighi, Isabella Locatelli, Sara Tounesi, Ilaria Arrighetti, Giada Franco, Elisa Giordano (c), Francesca Sgorbini, Beatrice Veronese

Backs: Sara Barattin, Sofia Stefan, Veronica Madia, Emma Stevanin, Beatrice Capomaggi, Alyssa D’Inca, Beatrice Rigoni, Michela Sillari, Manuela Furlan, Francesca Granzoto, Maria Magatti, Aura Muzzo, Vittoria Ostuni Minuzzi, Sofia Rolfi


Italy begin their campaign in Whangarei on Sunday 9 October against the USA, who they leapfrogged in the world rankings after their warm-up win against France.

Their next Pool B match sees them take on Canada at the Waitakere Stadium in Auckland the following Sunday, hoping to cause an upset at the expense of the 2014 runners-up.

And they stay in Auckland to round off the first stage with a clash against Japan on Sunday 23 October.