Andrea Di Giandomenico has announced 26 names for the squad to take on England on Saturday 10 April:
Ilaria ARRIGHETTI (Stade Rennais, France, 45 caps)
Sara BARATTIN (Arredissima Villorba, 95 caps)
Melissa BETTONI (Stade Rennais, France, 58 caps)
Lucia CAMMARANO (Rugby Belve Neroverdi, 24 caps)
Alyssa D’INCA (Arredissima Villorba, uncapped)
Giordana DUCA (Valsugana Rugby Padova, 18 caps)
Valeria FEDRIGHI (Stade Toulousain, France, 22 caps)
Giada FRANCO (Rugby Colorno, 17 caps)
Manuela FURLAN (captain, Arredissima Villorba, 75 caps)
Lucia GAI (Valsugana Rugby Padova, 70 caps)
Elisa GIORDANO (Valsugana Rugby Padova, 43 caps)
Isabella LOCATELLI (Rugby Monza 1949, 23 caps)
Veronica MADIA (Rugby Colorno, 19 caps)
Maria MAGATTI (CUS Milano, 33 caps)
Gaia MARIS (Valsugana Rugby Padua, uncapped)
Aura MUZZO (Arredissima Villorba, 14 caps)
Vittoria OSTUNI MINUZZI (Valsugana Rugby Padua, 4 caps)
Beatrice RIGONI (Valsugana Rugby Padua, 43 caps)
Sofia ROLFI (Rugby Colorno, newcomer)
Sara SEYE (Kawasaki Robot Calvisano, uncapped)
Francesca SGORBINI (ASM Romagnat, France, 5 caps)
Michela SILLARI (Valsugana Rugby Padova, 57 caps)
Erika SKOFCA (Valsugana Rugby Padova, 2 caps)
Sofia STEFAN (Valsugana Rugby Padova, 56 caps)
Sara TOUNESI ASM Romagnat, France, 16 caps)
Beatrice VERONESE (Valsugana Rugby Padova, 4 caps)
The unfamiliar names are Sara Seye, who replaces Silvia Turani, the loose-head, Gaia Maris (another loose-head) and Alyssa D’Inca (centre).
As the great Sara Barattin looks forward to her 96th cap, the question must be asked: who is competing for her place? This is one of Italy’s major problems – a lack of rivals to threaten the places of the old guard. Of course a lack of international matches over the past year has restricted Di Giandomenico’s chances of trying out new blood, but if the Azzurre want to sup at the same table as the Red Roses and les Bleues, they do need to bring on a bright young generation.
Their immediate aim must be to ensure they reach the second of the three pairings in the final round. That means putting on a show in Glasgow on 17 April; every point counts in this unique version of the 6N. And it needs a more measured performance against the English than they managed last November. They know they are facing unflattering odds, but it’s vital they keep in the game for the full 80 minutes. They can think back to 2017 at the Stoop, when they posted three tries against the eventual Grand Slammers, the only team to do so that year. They are capable of thrilling rugby, but have only rarely managed to maintain those standards all through (against France in March 2019!).
The final selection will be made known on Thursday at 1 pm BST.
All the players and staff have followed strict health protocols leading up to the game.
There is confusion over the venue: the original 6N sources said Padua – the official Italian website says Parma. All sorts of wild possibilities come to mind.