Italy’s senior and U20 national team travelled to Barcelona for a double-header against Spain, as part of Spanish Rugby’s centenary celebrations.
For both Giovanni Raineri, new head coach of the “Azzurre”, and Diego Saccà, coach of the U20s, this was the first time to see their selection in action.
Before the matches the two coaches explained what they hoped to get out of the weekend.
'It was very exciting to share preparation at the same time as the women's U20 national team: we are aware that Italian women's rugby is alive and growing, and we are all part of a movement in continuous development', said Raineri: 'For us, yes it is about the beginning of the journey, an important step to continue the journey.
Diego Saccà added that 'We are particularly thrilled to have the opportunity to lead the group of young athletes steeping up from last year’s Under 18 squad. The objective of the staff is primarily to allow the girls to have an enriching and educational experience, to which others will be added during the year. All athletes will have the opportunity to take the field and experience the sensations, rhythms and dynamics of an international match first-hand. Our focus is on performance, thanks to an activity that will allow us to verify the progress of the work done and solidify the foundations of the future path”.
For Spain, the formation of an age group squad is a big step forward. José Antonio Barrio – who recently stepped down as coach of the senior team – is Technical Director, and he summed up the development as being “about time”, filling an important developmental gap that had been missing in Spanish rugby.
Italy were winners of the main match of the day. Spain dominated much of the early possession, but it was Italy absorbed everything the home team threw at them and it was Italy who opened the scoring with a try from Veronica Madia after 26 miniutes.
The score doubled after 36 minutes, Italian power in a scrum 10m from the line drawing in the Spanish defence, the ball swept with where Aura Muzzo found herself with a huge overlap. 0-10
With Italy now in command Francesca Granzotto added a third try just before the break, getting first to her own kick ahead from outside the Spanish 22. 0-15, and halftime.
A brighter start to the second half by Spain again put Italy under some early pressure, but the speed of Italy’s counter-attacks took full advantage of any Spanish errors and after 53m Giada Franco ended just such a counter with the visitors fourth try. 0-22 to Italy.
Only in the 74th minute did Spain finally find a way through, constant pressure finally resulting in try for Vico Gorrachategui. The final whistle went a few minutes later, Italy winning by 22-5
Spain 1.Marta Estelles 2.Cristina Blanco 3. Laura Delgado (C) 4.Anna Puig 5. Carmen Castellucci 6.Vico Gorrachategui 7.Alba Capell 8. Lourdes Alameda 9. Lucia Diaz 10.Ines Bueso-Inchausti 11. Marta Carmona 12.Zahia Perez 13.Alba Vinuesa 14.Tecla Masoko 15.Claudia Pena
16.Maria De Las Huertas 17.Maria Miguel 18.Sidorella Bracic 19.Alba Alonso 20.Ana Peralta 21.Julia Castro 22.Maider Aresti 23.Marta Fresno 24. Claudia Perez
Italy: 1. Silvia Turani; 2. Vittoria Vecchini; 3. Sara Seye; 4. Isabella Locatelli; 5. Giordana Duca; 6. Giada Franco; 7. Francesca Sgorbini; 8. Elisa Giordano; 9. Elisa Estefan; 10. Veronica Madia; 11. Alyssa D'Inca; 12. Beatrice Rigoni; 13. Michela Sillari; 14. Aura Muzzo; 15. Francesca Granzotto
16. Francesca Barro; 17. Gaia Maris; 18. Lucia Gai; 19. Alessia Margotti; 20. Alissa Ranuccini; 21. Emma Stevanin; 22. Mathilde Cheval; 23. Alessia Gronda; 24. Beatrice Capomaggi;
Earlier in the day Spain (with a few players slightly over the U20 age band, so they were officially described as a "U21" team) deservedly came out on top 10-5 in an interesting battle full of running rugby in the Catalonian sunshine.
The only score in the first half came from wing Martina Marquez after just four minutes, bursting through the Italian defence to score. However, despite almost all of the rest of the first half seeing Spain camped in the Italian half, Italy successfully kept Spain at bay until halftime.
Italy managed to break into the Spanish half at the start of the second half, but Spain held out and once the returned to the attack after 16m soon doubled their lead with full-back Abril Camacho ending a move which began with a line-out on the left side by diving in the right corner.
Italy pulled a try back three minutes later, scrumhalf Nicole Mastrangelo pealing off the back of a ruck to burst through.
The rest of the half was much more even then the opening 35 minutes, but no team proved able to break through leaving Spain 10-5 winners.
Spain U21 squad: Araceli Baena; Beatriz Rivera; Gemma Silvia; Sara Martori; Sara Rodriguez; Martina Marquez; Natalia Gómez; Esther Moraleda; Abril Camacho; Lucía Guerra; Uxue Ramírez; Ariane Torrontegui; Garazi Izaguirre; Eider García; Águeda Pis; Samantha Correa; Carmen Miranda; Marina Rodríguez
Italy U20 squad: Francesca Andreoli; Martina Busana; Erika Campigotto; Anna Carnevali; Sofia Catellani; Francesca Celli; Nadia Cinque; Angelica Cittadini; Emma Da Lio; Alessia Della Sala; Gaia Dosi; Elena Erricchiello; Silvia Fent; Alessandra Frangipani; Rubina Emma Grassi; Mascia Jelic; Susanna Logoteta; Ilenia Marchegiani; Nicole Mastrangelo; Aregash Pellizzon; Mihaela Pirpiliu; Matilde Romersa; Luna Agatha Sacchi; Laura Valentina Timpu; Alice Visman; Giulia Maria Zallocco