Italy finished top of the Rugby World Cup 2021 Europe Qualifier standings in Parma to confirm their place at a fifth edition of the showpiece tournament.

One of 12 teams to contest the inaugural women’s tournament in Wales 30 years ago, Italy will be appearing at their second successive Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, having finished ninth in Ireland in 2017.

We take a look back at Italy’s Rugby World Cup story.

RWC debut: 8 April, 1991 v England at the Dairy Field, Llanharan

RWC appearances: Played 18 — Won 6, Lost 12 — Points for 262, Points against 363 — Win ratio 33 per cent

Best finish: Eighth, 1991

Qualification for RWC 2021: Won the RWC 2021 Europe Qualifier

Most memorable match: Italy’s biggest Rugby World Cup win came in their Bowl quarter-final against Russia in 1998. Full-back Lorena Nave scored two of her side’s seven tries as the Azzurre secured a 51-7 win at the National Rugby Centre Stadium in Amsterdam. Their prize was a meeting with Ireland in the Bowl semi-finals, which Italy lost 20-5.

Iconic moment: England went into the inaugural tournament in Wales as one of the favourites, but were given a scare in their pool match against Italy in Llanharan. Carla Negri’s 40-metre drop goal was worthy of any highlight reel, and added to two penalties from Nave, helped to give the Italians a surprise half-time lead. England proved too strong in the second half and went on to win 25-9, but  Italy had made their mark on the tournament.

Low point: Italy failed to qualify for three tournaments in a row, missing out in 2006, 2010 and 2014. They qualified for RWC 2017 in Ireland by virtue of their record across the Women’s Six Nations 2015 and 2016.

Iconic player: Sara Barattin became the first Italian woman to win her 100th test cap during the recent RWC 2021 Europe Qualifier. The scrum-half captained her country as they made their first appearance at a women’s Rugby World Cup for 15 years in 2017. Barattin made four appearances and scored two tries, both against Spain. “Sara is a legend for more than a generation of rugby players,” current Azzurre captain Manuela Furlan said recently.

Did you know? In their four Rugby World Cup appearances the Azzurre are yet to qualify for the quarter-finals, having won two of nine pool matches.

Quote: “Those who have never sung the anthems could not know [what it meant], because the matter is that in Italy it was totally unknown,” former Italy international Erika Morri said about lining up against England at Rugby World Cup in 1991. “In that period, we were absolutely no one. And, so we just played for ourselves and for the people who knew how difficult it was playing rugby in that time.” 

Read more: Fiji – South Africa – Wales – USA – Australia – France – Canada  England  New Zealand