Family is what rugby is all about, says Elena

Errichiello WSS 1
Back rower Elena Errichiello describes Italy's journey at the Women's Summer Series, where the team is already making waves.

Having climbed the ranks of various teams, Errichiello finally tasted the satisfaction of a senior Test debut last year - alongside her clubmate Nicole Mastrangelo - in the victorious match against South Africa in Cape Town during the WXV.

"I experienced that match in a particular way," confesses the number eight. "I entered the last quarter of an hour full of anxiety and with a strong sense of responsibility, and a lot of emotion, so I don't think I enjoyed it to the fullest. I hope the opportunity for a second cap comes, to show my worth and gain more confidence. Fortunately, I didn't make any bad mistakes, and we won anyway."

In fact, when thinking of any favourite on-field memories, her national team debut isn't the first that comes to mind.

"That's precisely because of these contrasting feelings. Instead, I think of a victory in Colorno a couple of seasons ago. An exciting match with continuous ups and downs. We conceded a try in the opening minutes, but we regrouped under the posts, calmed down, and encouraged each other, playing what I think was one of our best games, managing to win and earning a spot in the championship semi-finals. This was when everyone considered Colorno, already past Italian champions, as the favourite."

The senior national team, however, is the goal for a girl wishing to make the decisive step onto the major international stage. This next generation of Italian players has already impressed on home soil in this Women's Summer Series, claiming a nail-shredding win on day in Parma against Scotland, before Errichiello led them to victory against Ireland in even more decisive fashion on Tuesday.

Last year, Italy U20 won a 'Three Nations' competition in L'Aquila against Scotland and Ireland, albeit playing 40-minute games. Now, the challenge has been elevated with the Women's Summer Series, an ideal springboard that had until recently for Errichiello seemed a far-off proposition for this age grade.

"I really hope for myself and the team that the Women's Summer Series can be a starting point because I believe there's an opportunity for all of us to continue. We experienced last year's event in L'Aquila, but after the first game against Scotland, we realised it's completely different here, playing real rugby for 80 minutes. You have to be there for the entire match both physically and mentally, and it's not at all easy to play at the international level maintaining constant and continuous concentration. However, I see a motivated team aware of the responsibility of playing at home, but also eager to prove we deserve to be here and wear this jersey."

Team and the blue jersey: two key concepts in Elena Errichiello's rugby philosophy.

"I've always loved sports, initially dedicating myself mostly to competitive swimming. One day in elementary school, I was at a classmate's house, and her mother coached mini rugby. Since we weren't doing anything special and it was a beautiful day, she took us to the field, and from that moment on, I never stopped. The team means everything to me, both on and off the field, with the atmosphere that is created, because I consider it almost like a family. That's especially true now, because the increased training load means I see my teammates almost more than my family."

Hence the choice of a club that is more than a team, a true family, like Unione Rugby Capitolina, where Errichiello coaches the under-8s, while in the past she led the under-10s with her teammate Nicole Mastrangelo.

"In mini rugby, I started with a team that no longer exists, the Molossi, and we trained in a school in Rome at Piazza Bologna. My first coach, Rebecca Triolo, later became my teammate and is now an Italian champion with Villorba.

"After the mini rugby experience, I moved to Capitolina, which was the only women's team in the area, and now I say there couldn't have been a better choice. URC is a club that respects my way of living rugby and the team, and we all feel like a family. We might seem closed from the outside because we create this sort of sisterhood, and inside, there's a unique atmosphere. At the games, we all come together, from mini rugby to the older players."

As a number eight who makes attacking her strength and loves to carry the ball, she feels she still needs to work on defence. All of this following the path forged by her idol, Sergio Parisse, an inspiration to her as a person and athlete; a model player to look up to, even though she has never met him in person yet, despite having seen him play many times.

Errichiello maintains the classic dreams, hopes, and expectations of a typical twenty-year-old girl. Even though, in this case, the term 'classic' might have a different meaning.

"I attended a classical high school and feel connected to this type of study. I still read a lot today, and the last book I read was a classical tragedy, Euripides' Helen. I was attracted by the beautiful cover, but also the fact that I'm still connected to my studies, and it's a book that talks differently than Homer about the character of Helen of Troy, perhaps restoring more dignity to a character somewhat maligned and labelled simply as the main culprit of the war.

"Besides that, I listen to a lot of music and try to combine this passion with traveling, so I try to visit different cities and catch a concert here and there, even if the last one I saw was at home in Rome, at the Stadio Olimpico with Gazzelle. Meanwhile on vacation I took advantage of the European Sevens in Makarska, and a friend and I went to watch the girls play.

"And sometimes I like to wander around Rome aimlessly, discovering alleys and unknown places. Thinking about the near future, I want to continue my journey with the senior national team, and then personally, I want to graduate [Errichiello studies Motor Sciences at Foro Italico in Rome] and maybe have an experience abroad, hopefully being able to combine work, daily life, and rugby."

Without forgetting the struggles carried forward by new generations, particularly against discrimination and for giving due dignity to women's rugby.

"Having started playing with boys," concludes Errichiello, "it was almost stranger to switch to an all-girls team in the youth categories, but as already mentioned, a very strong group was created, even when we were only seven girls. Some of those girls are still my teammates both at the club and in the national team.

"We do feel a certain responsibility, but in general, I wouldn't say there were too many differences between men's and women's rugby. Once you wear this jersey, the goal is always to elevate the crest on your chest and prove you deserve it. Even against Scotland, in the pre-match talk, I told my teammates that ours is a game of roles; sometimes one plays, sometimes another, and no one is indispensable, but we are all essential once we have this jersey on."

Italy face Wales at 17:30 BST on Sunday 14th July in the final day of the Women's Summer Series.