On the same weekend that France and England racked up a half-century of points in victory, Italy’s chances of bettering last season’s return of two Championship wins were boosted with a spirited 28-7 win against Scotland at the Scotstoun Stadium in Glasgow.
The Azzurre’s Women’s World Rugby Ranking will also improve, to the tune of 1.09 rating points, following their third consecutive win over the Scots in the space of 12 months. While not enough to lift them higher than their present position of seventh, the gap between themselves and Australia in sixth will be down to 2.38 points once the rankings are updated at 12 noon on Monday.
England and France, ranked second and third behind New Zealand, did not gain any reward – other than the five competition points on offer – for their respective victories over Ireland and Wales, due to the large points differential between the sides in the rankings before kick-off.
Despite dominating territory and possession, Italy were forced to make over 200 tackles – as well as defying the loss of two players to the sin-bin in the first half – to get their campaign up and running from day one. Forwards Valentina Ruzza and Elisa Giordano both saw yellow in the first 40 as the sides entered the break all-square at 7-7.
Great to be back out there with this lot last night! Good to get off to winning ways against a tough @IrishRugby side but plenty to work on for next week! Thanks for all the support! #RedRoses #RiseWithUs #6Nations2019 pic.twitter.com/P2DAuSJ5Lb— Sarah Hunter (@sarah_hunter8) February 2, 2019
It was Italy who scored first, after Megan Kennedy had been sent to the sin-bin for Scotland, Illaria Arrighetti touching down at the back of a well-constructed maul in the fifth minute.
Defences dominated thereafter though, and the only other points of the half came on the stroke of half-time when the Azzurre, by now down to 13 players, were powerless to stop Sarah Bonar diving over.
After withstanding early pressure from the hosts, the second half belonged to Italy. Giada Franco and Beatrice Rigoni made the game safe before Giordano atoned for her earlier card with the bonus-point try right at the death.
The other matches from the opening weekend went according to the form book too, England turning on the style in the second half to convert a 13-0 lead into a comprehensive 51-7 victory against Ireland at Donnybrook.
Eight different England players made it onto the scoresheet in a team performance that bodes well for next weekend’s crunch encounter against defending Six Nations champions France.
Meanwhile, France showed their class in seeing off Wales 52-3 in Montpellier.
Hooker Caroline Thomas claimed a hat-trick in an eight-try win that reflected the home side’s superiority in most facets of play. So dominant were France, they made an incredible 979 metres with ball in hand, achieving 11 line breaks to nil, as well as being rock solid in the set-piece, too.
Number eight Romane Menager, who was outstanding throughout, and wing Lea Murie, both bagged a brace of tries, while Safi N’Diaye scored France’s other try.
RWC 2019 Tickets
RWC 2019 Official Ticketing site NOW LIVE
Fans can now register interest to apply for Rugby World Cup 2019 tickets