Italy Women are in prime form with the 2019 Women’s Six Nations looming; four wins on the bounce dating back to last year’s tournament sees the world’s number seven-ranked side enter this year’s championship with high hopes.
A bumper November saw Andrea Di Giandomenico’s side deal Scotland a second defeat in a row, before triumphing emphatically in what was their first ever match against South Africa.
And with Di Giandomenico’s 30-strong squad announced back in December, the chosen trenta will be fully focused on improving last year’s impressive fourth-place, with a tilt at what would be a first Women’s Six Nations title for the Azzurre.
Here are three players who will look to have a big impact come February.
The bustling fullback has long been a stalwart of her international team, and was rewarded for her longevity with the captain’s armband ahead of the November internationals.
Taking over from the legendary Sara Barattin – who remains in Di Giandomenico’s squad – the domestic clubmates will form the backbone of the Italian playing staff.
With 68 caps to her name since making her debut against England back in 2009, the 30-year-old shows no signs of slowing down as she prepares for her 11th Six Nations.
With domestic honours aplenty – Furlan won the English title whilst at Harlequins in 2017 and her Villorba Rugby side currently sit top of Italy’s Serie A – the speedster would love to add an international title to her already decorated trophy cabinet.
The 25-year-old has quickly become indispensable for the Azzurre since her debut back in 2012.
Since then she has picked up 46 caps and swept all other claims for kicking duties aside, making the tee her own thanks to her trusty right boot.
A teammate of Furlan’s at Harlequins, the versatile back knows a thing or two about winning and was at the heart of all that was good in Italy’s Autumn wins.
Eight points in the 35-10 win over South Africa proved a solid return, but it was in the Scotland match where her talents shone through.
A hat-trick of scores paved the way for a statement 38-0 triumph over their Six Nations rivals, leaving Di Giandomenico hopeful that she can repeat the trick when Italy head to Scotstoun for their championship opener on 1 February.
While Italy’s rivals will be well acquainted with the dangers that Sillari and Furlan pose, Girodana Duca’s explosion on the scene gives her an imposing air of mystique.
Possessing just seven caps, Duca featured in last year’s Six Nations tournament, but her performances in the interim will have Azzurre fans hoping the lock can prove the fulcrum in the forward line.
Her player of the match performance in Italy’s win over South Africa, an accolade made all the more noticeable considering Sofia Stefan also grabbed two tries in the game, has fans hoping that they 26-year-old can dominate the pack for years to come.
If she can live up the high standards she has set recently, with Sillari and Furlan raking in points from the backs, Italy can be forgiven for feeling quietly confident ahead of this year’s championships.
Image credits: FIR