Source: INPHO

I to I – Italy v Ireland

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Six Nations – Round Three

This was the result I expected, but not the manner of it. Ireland really got stuck in; it took two electric tries from Alyssa D’Inca to see the Azzurre home.

In the regrettable absence of skipper Elisa Giordano, Giovanni Raineri gave Sofia Stefan the armband (her first appointment on her 76th cap!) and moved Giada Franco into No 8, her first experience there. He continued widening his squad, new faces appearing on the bench, Alice Cassaghi, Laura Gurioli and Alissa Ranuccini. Raineri was another to opt for a 6/2 split.

The contrast in experience was enormous. It’s still difficult to understand why the Girls in Green have worn the shirt so little, but they put up a tremendous battle. If the outcome meant the longest run of losses for eighteen years, so be it; Greg McWilliams’ defence of his squad and his strategies deserves understanding. A very young team prevented Italy from gaining a valuable bonus try-scoring point, and that was an achievement in itself. Any guilt must be borne by people much higher up the greasy pole.

McWilliams kept the same pack but introduced Lauren Delany (16 caps), Anna McGann (3 caps) and Ailsa Hughes (16 caps) to the back line. Importantly, that brought more know-how to the squad. Of the newer faces Deirbhile Nic a Bháird at No 8 really showed her worth; the pack kept at it and won an heartening penalty at a scrum late in the game. It was enough for Aurélie Groizeleau to run under the posts.

But that was the start and the end of Irish scoring. Before that, there were too many basic errors of decision-making and handling to bring the continuity so vital for success.

Against that we have to question Italy’s showing. They had a decent crowd in support, and far more caps in the starting squad. Yet they too succumbed to unforced errors; three tries from all that possession looks like misplaced effort.

They chose to play with the breeze and won an immediate 50/22 to get on top. Michela Sillari made a break but Beatrice Rigoni couldn’t hold a pass. That set the tone for much of the game: openings not completed.

Italy suffered six early penalties, and recycling proved a troublesome business. That kept the Irish in the game, but they too failed to get the ball into the backs’ hands fast enough to offer gaps and mismatches.

We waited half an hour for a score. It came to the Italian skipper from a fine move initiated by Veronica Madia and Rigoni. The ball went out left to Aura Muzzo, back to Rigoni who off-loaded to Stefan in support.

But that didn’t open the flood-gates. The crowd had to wait for the first of D’Inca’s two offerings as the second half started. Her second, near the end, was equally electric. Andrea Di Giandomenico was conservative in introducing the young back two years ago. Now his approach might seem to have been too cautious: she has so many attributes of a natural winger. But in her early days she played centre for Villorba, and the blue 12 and 13 shirts weren’t on sale.

Italy’s inability to put the Irish away calls into doubt their ability to gain the two wins they desperately need: away to Scotland, then home to Wales.

That third place in the table remains the big question. Forget all about a sideshow to come at Twickenham!

Result: Italy 22 Ireland 7
Player of the Match: Alyssa D’Inca



1 Gaia Maris 2 Vittoria Vecchini 3 Lucia Gai 4 Sara Tounesi 5 Giordana Duca 6 Francesca Sgorbini 7 isabella Locatelli 8 Giada Franco 9 Sofia Stefan (captain) 10 Veronica Madia 11 Alyssa D’Incà 12 Beatrice Rigoni 13 Michela Sillari 14 Aura Muzzo 15 Beatrice Capomaggi


16 Emanuela Stecca 17 *Alice Cassaghi 18 Sara Seye 19 Valeria Fedrighi 20 *Laura Gurioli 21 21 *Alissa Ranuccini 22 Sara Barattin 23 Emma Stevanin


15. Lauren Delany, 14. Aoife Doyle, 13. Aoife Dalton, 12. Anna McGann, 11. Natasja Behan, 10. Dannah O’Brien, 9. Ailsa Hughes 1. Linda Djougang, 2. Neve Jones, 3. Christy Haney, 4. Nichola Fryday (captain), 5. Sam Monaghan, 6. Dorothy Wall, 7. Grace Moore, 8. Deirbhile Nic a Bháird


16. Clara Nielson, 17. Sadhbh McGrath, 18. Kathryn Buggy, 19. Hannah O’Connor, 20. Brittany Hogan, 21. Molly Scuffil-McCabe, 22. Vicky Irwin, 23. Méabh Deely


Referee: Aurélie Groizeleau (FFR)
ARs: Maria Latos (GER) and Mary Pringle (SRU)
TMO: Ian Tempest (RFU)

Table after three rounds (France v Scotland to come):

Table                             W​      L​       Pts

England​​​                        3         0        15
France                          2        ​ 0        10
Wales ​​                           2          1         9
Italy                               1          2         4
Scotland  ​​                     0         2          0  ​
Ireland      ​​                     0         3          0


As a reminder of recent times we’d rather forget, this was Ireland’s first visit to Italy in the 6N since 2019, when they lost 27-29 in a thriller.

Sara Barattin is closing in on Katy Daley-Mclean’s high peak of 116 caps; 114 now.

This was another telling moment in the recent history of Irish women’s rugby. They simply had to find a win after all the setbacks they had suffered. It was in their favour that they hadn’t lost to Italy since 2019, so they could approach this match with some confidence. It was not to be. They are left with a home game against England and a visit to Edinburgh.