TikTok Women's Six Nations: Italy in Focus
Italy have been quietly building a strong side for a number of years but 2023 presents a new challenge for Le Azzurre, writes Sportsbeat's Milly McEvoy.
Gone are long-serving coach Andrea Di Giandomenico and legendary captain Manuela Furlan, in their place are Giovanni Raineri and Elisa Giordano.
The 2023 TikTok Women’s Six Nations is an opportunity for the new guard to show they are still on track to be the best of the rest.
Coach – Giovanni Raineri
While coaching Italy will be the first time Giovanni Raineri has guided a women’s team, he has plenty of experience representing the national team.
He was part of Italy’s Six Nations team between 2001 and 2003 before switching to coaching.
🇮🇹 New @Federugby women’s coach Giovanni Raineri could not have asked for a better collection of coaches to work alongside in his first steps into his post-playing career#TikTokW6N #Italdonne
— TikTok Women's Six Nations (@Womens6Nations) February 27, 2023
While learning the coaching ropes, he was able to witness four South African legends up close, including World Cup-winning director of rugby Rassie Erasmus.
The 2023 Championship is a chance to see what is possible for this Italy side, and for him.
Captain – Elisa Giordano
After the Rugby World Cup, Italy bid goodbye to a whole host of legends including Furlan, Maria Magatti and Melissa Bettoni.
And while Sara Barattin has made a surprise return to the squad, Elisa Giordano has been selected to lead Italy’s new era.
Once again and centre Beatrice Rigoni is over.
The break from no.8 Elisa Giordano got @Federugby on the front foot and some nice hands did the rest!#WomensSixNations #SCOvITA pic.twitter.com/3J8rqSaSVT — TikTok Women's Six Nations (@Womens6Nations) April 17, 2021
The back row has represented Le Azzurre 60 times and is known as Polipo (Octopus) because she catches everything.
She guided Italy during the World Cup last year with Furlan limited to a replacement role but is now ready to skipper the side full-time.
Star player – Beatrice Rigoni
Beatrice Rigoni was one of two Italian players to be named in the 2022 TikTok Women’s Six Nations Team of the Championship, alongside the now-retired Magatti.
“There has been a switch" 🎚
Since making her @Federugby debut aged just 18 in 2014, centre Beatrice Rigoni says she's seen a mentality shift within the squad. #TikTokW6N — TikTok Women's Six Nations (@Womens6Nations) September 29, 2022
She was selected for her influence across the pitch, making three passes leading to line breaks, more than any other player, and also putting in the second-most tackles by a back.
With Magatti gone, her importance among the backs is only set to grow, and she will be hoping to retain her place in the Team of the Championship.
Breakthrough candidate – Sofia Rolfi
After Furlan bid goodbye to Le Azzurre last year, there is a chance for a new full-back to come into the matchday squad, and Sofia Rolfi could be the player to step up.
Vittoria Ostuni Minuzzi is likely to continue as the starting No.15, as she did at the World Cup, but there is a place on the bench going spare.
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Rolfi is yet to make her debut for Italy but has spent time around the squad during the 2021 Women’s Six Nations and the Rugby World Cup last year.
The 21-year-old represents Rugby Colorno in the Eccellenza Femminile, with the side currently sitting third in the table.
Italy finished fifth in the 2022 TikTok Women’s Six Nations, matching Ireland and Wales with two wins in the tournament, but they failed to pick up any bonus points, unlike the others.
Le Azzurre opened their Championship by taking on the eventual top two, suffering a 39-6 defeat away to France before a chastening 74-0 loss to England in Parma.
Another tricky away day followed in Round 3 as Ireland emerged 29-8 winners at Musgrave Park before Italy secured their first win of the Six Nations.
This really was a superb team try by @Federugby at Cardiff Arms Park - finished off by their centurion Sara Barattin 👌 #TikTokW6N pic.twitter.com/FC6pA1qMtP
— TikTok Women's Six Nations (@Womens6Nations) May 9, 2022
A late try from replacement hooker Silvia Turani sealed Le Azzure's first points of the Championship in a 20-13 win over Scotland before Michela Sillari kicked a penalty in the 79th minute to defeat Wales 10-8 on Super Saturday.
Prior to the Rugby World Cup, Italy and France squared off in a two-match series, with Les Bleues taking the first game before Italy roared back to defeat their old enemies 26-19.
𝐂𝐎𝐑𝐀𝐆𝐆𝐈𝐎, 𝐌𝐈𝐂𝐇𝐄𝐋𝐀!@federugby centre Michela Sillari acts quickly to score against France in Biella. #ITAvFRA #SummerNationsSeries. pic.twitter.com/pzHIZapqDi
— TikTok Women's Six Nations (@Womens6Nations) September 25, 2022
That win took them to fifth in the world rankings to equal their highest-ever position, a place they still hold after reaching the quarter-finals of the World Cup before losing to France.
Six Nations Rugby, the official organising body responsible for the TikTok Women’s Six Nations, broke all fan engagement records in 2022 and highlighted its commitment to giving the women’s game the best possible platform to grow.
The 2023 edition of the Championship stands to build on this progress, with even bigger crowds expected, more international broadcasters covering all the action and unprecedented social and digital promotion for the heroes of the women’s game.
Italy will be confident of improving on their fifth-place finish last time out but know that they are under no pressure from head coach Raineri.
They begin their campaign at home to France on Sunday before taking on England at Franklin’s Gardens in Round 2.
🇮🇹 @Federugby prop Silvia Turani hopes her time playing in England with @ExeChiefsWomen can provide an extra cutting edge ahead of the 2023 TikTok Women’s Six Nations#TikTokW6N #OurCharge
— TikTok Women's Six Nations (@Womens6Nations) March 16, 2023
Ireland are their opponents after the fallow week in Parma, before a swift trip to Edinburgh to take on Scotland.
Their Championship draws to a close at home to Wales, with Le Azzurre hoping that will be a straight shootout for third place, or higher.
For all the latest TikTok Women’s Six Nations news, information, and details on how to watch the Championship, visit: https://womens.sixnationsrugby.com/