The Italian rugby team has been in the Six Nations tournament since 2000. At least, the men’s team has. Despite the losses and the negative results, the men are still in the top international cup for the sport. And they get attention in the media, mainly for always being the underdog. Indeed, they always confirm being the underdog. But the Italrugby women is telling a different story. Still, the women don’t get enough attention.
Italrugby Women, bringing results home
Just like the men, they participate in the Women’s Six Nations, which debuted in 2007. The 2021 edition of the tournament ended on April and the Italian team closed the cup in fourth place. So close to the podium, they could taste it. On the other hand, the man have ended last for the past five editions of the Six Nations.
The Italrugby women surrendered to Ireland, which won 25-5, gaining the bronze medal of the 2021 Cup. Andrea Di Giandomenico is the group’s coach and he had positive words for her girls, despite the defeat. “We lived three weeks of gathering and work, very positive, the girls worked at their best and I’m sorry I couldn’t put them in a better position to beat Ireland,” said Di Giandomenico, “perhaps we lacked experience.”
Perhaps, they even lacked support from fans back home. Not because they aren’t worthy. Because discrimination is rampant. Although this is changing. It’s a slow evolution, but a necessary one. And long overdue.
I just started running
Silvia Gaudino was part of the Italrugby women for years, playing both in the Six Nations and in the World Cup. The Italian champion started playing late, when she was 17 because no one in the country showed the games. While Gaudino’s father used to play rugby, she didn’t think there could be an all-female team. Finally, she joined a local club in 1998 after going to the stadium where her father trained. She and her friend simply started running. And Gaudino kept running until her retirement at the end of the 2017 season. She even became the Italrugby captain in 2013.
“Women’s rugby has grown a lot in Italy,” Gaudino said to the Six Nations, “when I started playing, girls played with boys until 12 and then there was a gap until the senior category. That’s changed and now the game is faster, making it easier to watch.” Now, girls and boys still play together until they are 12. Then, they divide into under 14, 16, and 18, both for men and women. The last step is the Seniors. So, the sport has changed. So has the Italrugby women.
In fact, Gaudino admits that, when she started, the other national teams were simply better. In fact, the Italian players didn’t have the same thrive and chances as their foreign counterparts. Gaudino and her teammates started training harder, spending more and more time at the gym and running on the field.
Until they managed to join the Women’s Six Nations, a dream come true for them. In 2015, they closed third in the tournament. Indeed, their best result yet. Still, the work isn’t done yet. In fact, Italian rugby won’t participate in the Tokyo Olympics, neither the men’s nor the women’s. It’s time to look for new talent to join the Italrugby women.
There aren’t enough locker rooms
The ex board member of the Federazione Italiana Rugby Erika Morri believes that marketing isn’t the only thing missing. Often, clubs justify their lack of a women’s team by saying they don’t have enough locker rooms. Plus, they lack financial support and incentives. Since the revolution starts from the local teams, the sport should look into the cities before looking at the Six Nations. Indeed, small picture first.
“The Italrugby women national group could be the tip of the iceberg of a big movement,” said Morri, “a movement that nowadays can be positive.” The movement starts when the girls are young. Instead of putting them into ballet shoes, sports associations should offer a multi-sport membership. Give them different disciplines to try, including rugby. You never know where the new champion will rise from.