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Rugby World Cup 2021 Europe Qualifier: Teams focused on winning ticket to New Zealand
We look ahead to RWC 2021 Europe Qualifier match-day two as Italy take on Ireland and Spain then face Scotland in Parma.
Italy coach Andrea Di Giandomenico has urged his players to “focus on the present” as they prepare to face Ireland at the Rugby World Cup 2021 Europe Qualifier.
The hosts, who beat Scotland on Monday, would strengthen their position at the top of the standings, and hopes of RWC 2021 qualification, with another win in Parma on Sunday.
Ireland began their campaign with defeat against Spain, but have lost just once to the Azzurre in 24 years and beat them 25-5 during the Women’s Six Nations 2021 in April.
Di Giandomenico oversaw Italy’s sole victory in the fixture since 1997 two years ago, at the tournament venue, Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi, and insists that history will count for little with a place in New Zealand on the line.
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“Of course, tradition is for Ireland [but] the teams wouldn’t play again if we speak about tradition,” Di Giandomenico told World Rugby.
“It is not about tradition, it is about the game. We need this match because our objective is the World Cup and this match is not about tradition.
“I understand, I agree that confidence is important, of course, but this is not the Six Nations, it's a tournament, it’s another environment.”
He added: “It's true we’ve won against Ireland just one time, here in Parma at the same stadium, but it's another game. It’s always another game.
“You have to focus on the present, what happens in the present. We need this because at the moment the focus is [RWC 2021 qualification].”
Dealing with curveballs
Di Giandomenico is conscious both teams will want to control possession and territory in Parma on Sunday, and that despite their travails against Spain, Ireland’s squad contains players that can hurt the hosts.
“Ireland have a strategy and want to play in our half,” he said.
“Go to the line [with] good support, good possession and when the player moves forward to go in the space, they have players [who are] dangerous in this.
“So, this is the challenge for us. We know we have to win in the collision area, the breakdown area, we have to tackle low, tackle hard, and when we have the possession, we [have to] go forward.
“We need good go-forward [ball] to play our game.”
Ireland forward Sam Monaghan revealed on Thursday that the team had used mindfulness techniques to help them move on from the opening-day defeat to Spain.
A third successive victory against Italy would reignite their hopes of RWC 2021 qualification and fly-half Stacey Flood believes they can take confidence from their win in April.
“Looking at them, they are the same… not too much different than when we played them in the Six Nations,” Flood said. “I think Italy playing at home, Italy playing in good weather could be factors to that.
“Obviously, they're here to do a job just like any other team, so I think that we know what to expect from them.
“If they throw us a few curveballs, we'll be totally ready to problem solve on the field and adapt to that.
“But I think going forward, just looking at our own game and seeing what we can do, how we can put pressure on them is the way I'm going to look at it.”
Eyes on the prize
Meanwhile, Spain coach José Antonio Barrio says his side will head into Sunday’s match against Scotland with the same ambition that earned them a memorable win against Ireland last time out.
Spain have won three of the previous five meetings between the teams, but Scotland won the most recent of those, running out 36-12 winners 20 months ago.
Scotland ran in six tries to win that match in Almeria, and Barrio admitted that match had left a “bitter aftertaste” but insisted revenge was not on his players’ minds.
“This game is totally different to the previous ones against Scotland,” he said. “The history of the matches between us doesn’t have any importance right now.
“In previous matches both teams [were in] different moments of team development, physical form or objectives.”
He added: “Qualification success for us [relies] on taking every match as an objective in itself. We will do our best and hope that it will be enough to win the game.”
Scotland need to win to maintain their own hopes of RWC 2021 qualification, and although full-back Chloe Rollie was impressed with how Spain played against Ireland, she is confident there are areas that her team-mates can attack on Sunday.
“They can be a bit tight in defence and there are times that we'll be able to pull the trigger and release our backs and get it wide,” she said.
“We'll focus on going through our motions first and then look to do that.”