Both head coach Andrea Di Giandomenico and captain Manuela Furlan have been part of the Azzurre setup for over a decade now and have done much between them to develop the Italians into a competitive outfit.
It has, meanwhile, already been a memorable March for scrum-half Sara Barattin after she was awarded a special cap for reaching 100 international appearances before the Italian men’s Guinness Six Nations clash with Scotland at the Stadio Olimpico.
These experienced heads were part of a Championship campaign in 2021 that began with a 67-3 defeat against eventual champions England at Parma’s Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi.
The Azzurre were able to make the most of the temporary change to the Women’s Six Nations by qualifying for the 3rd/4th place play-off by beating Scotland 41-20 in Glasgow, with Furlan leading by example in scoring a hat-trick.
Italy were not quite able to secure a top-half finish as they lost 25-5 against Ireland at the Donnybrook Stadium in Dublin, Melissa Bettoni’s try the only points they could muster.
The campaign put them in good stead for the European Qualification Tournament for the World Cup last autumn, however, as they made the most of home advantage at their Parma base.
Scotland were again beaten in their opening game, this time by a 38-13 scoreline as they ran in six tries, but they were made to sweat on qualification following a 15-7 defeat against Ireland, which slightly dampened what was Barattin’s 100th cap.
That ensured it went to the wire for their final fixture against Spain, who had surprisingly beaten Ireland in their opening fixture.
The Azzurre safely navigated that banana skin, however, as they ran out 34-10 winners, with their try bonus point allowing them to win the group and book their safe passage to New Zealand this autumn.
Qualifying as Europe 1 effectively marked Italy as the best of the rest in the continent – outside the powerhouses of England and France – at the end of the year and that is a moniker they will want to live up to in the 2022 TikTok Women’s Six Nations.
A tough test awaits Italy in their opening game as they travel to Grenoble to face France at the Stade des Alpes against a Les Bleues side they lost 45-10 against in their previous meeting two years ago.
You could argue the Azzurre are getting their hardest games out of the way first as defending champions England then visit Parma in round 2.
Furlan and company will then look to really get down to business when they head to Ireland at Musgrave Park, Cork, before looking for further success against Scotland at home in Round 4.
Italy then round off their campaign with a trip to Cardiff Arms Park to face Wales, who they defeated 19-15 the last time they made that particular journey in the 2020 Women’s Six Nations.
Players to watch
Captain Manuela Furlan, who has earned over 80 caps, remains one of Italy’s stand-out players and you can expect the 33-year old to lead by example during the 2022 TikTok Women’s Six Nations.
Furlan plays mostly at full-back, but can also be effective as a winger, as Scotland found out to their cost in last year’s Championship.
She won’t be the only experienced head returning in 2022, as scrum-half Sara Barattin – the only Italian woman to reach 100 caps for her country – will again be directing operations from behind the scrum.
Now 35 years old, Barattin has been playing for her country since 2004 and provides the sort of calmness and leadership you would expect from a former skipper.
Alongside Barattin at fly-half will be her long-time playmaking partner Michela Sillari, whose performances at the European Qualification Tournament for the World Cup – both in try-scoring and goal-kicking – proved crucial.
In addition to all this experience, there are six uncapped players in the Italian squad, with Francesca Barro, Alessia Margotti, Emma Stevanin, Alessandra Frangipani, Emanuela Stecca and Francesca Granzotto all looking to make their mark.
Forwards: Ilaria Arrighetti (Stade Rennais), Francesca Barro (Valsugana Rugby Padova), Melissa Bettoni (Stade Rennais), Giordana Duca (Valsugana Rugby Padova), Valeria Fedrighi (Stade Toulousain), Alessandra Frangipani (Villorba Rugby), Giada Franco (Rugby Colorno), Lucia Gai (Valsugana Rugby Padova), Elisa Giordano (Valsugana Rugby Padova), Francesca Granzotto (Unione Rugby Capitolina), Isabella Locatelli (Rugby Colorno), Gaia Maris (Valsugana Rugby Padova), Michela Merlo (Rugby Colorno), Francesa Sberna (Rugby Calvisano), Sara Seye (Kawasaki Robot Calvisano), Emanuela Stecca (Villorba Rugby), Sara Tounesi (ASM Romagnat), Silvia Turani (FC Grenoble), Emma Stevanin (Valsugana Rugby Padova), Vittoria Vecchini (Valsugana Rugby Padova), Beatrice Veronese (Valsugana Rugby Padova)
Backs: Sara Berattin (Villorba Rugby), Beatrice Capomaggi (Villorba Rugby), Alyssa D’Inca (Villorba Rugby), Manuela Furlan (captain, Villorba Rugby), Veronica Madia (Colorno Rugby), Maria Magatto (CUS Milano Rugby), Alessia Margotti (Valsugana Rugby Padova), Aura Muzzo (Villorba Rugby), Vittoria Ostuni Minuzzi (Valsugana Rugby Padova), Beatrice Rigoni (Valsugana Rugby Padova), Michela Sillari (Valsugana Rugby Padova), Sofia Stefan (Valsugana Rugby Padova)
How to buy tickets for Italy Women’s home matches in the TikTok Women’s Six Nations