Italy captain Silvia Gaudino admits it would be “the icing on the cake” if her team can safely negotiate the Women’s Rugby World Cup 2014 qualifier in Madrid and secure their place at the showpiece of the Women’s Game in France next year.
The qualifier, which takes place from 20-27 April in the Spanish capital, is a second chance for Italy after they missed out on qualification through the RBS Women’s Six Nations with Ireland and Wales claiming the two places as the best placed sides outside the already qualified England and France.
Italy came close after wins over France and Scotland in the opening two rounds, but a 16-15 loss to Wales in round three ultimately handed the initiative to their conquerors and forced the Italians into the six-team qualifier in Madrid.
“We secured two fantastic wins over the last Women’s Six Nations campaign, but we also lost two games against Wales and Ireland which left us a bit disappointed,” admitted the 31-year-old flanker.
“We have made progress and are proving our growth, we know we still have a long way to go and that we should never stop working, but we do know we’re on the right track.
“Qualifying for the World Cup is our goal for this season and securing that through the Six Nations would have been just perfect. Unfortunately we lost to Wales and that’s where things got complicated. We still fought hard to till the end and we are certain we gave our all in the tournament.
Concentration key for success
“The qualifying tournament is our second chance and we want to make the most of it and not let it go. We reviewed our Six Nations matches and we know what we need to do in order to improve. Now it’s just about putting it into practice.”
Italy have been drawn in Pool A with Sweden and the Netherlands, but with the teams facing those in the opposite pool they have tricky encounters with Samoa, Scotland and hosts Spain to look forward to as they bid to qualify for their first Women’s Rugby World Cup since 2002.
Gaudino knows it will not be a walk in the park for her side to qualify but the scenario is simple and if they “win all the games” they will secure one of the two places available at WRWC 2014 from this qualifying tournament.
“I think they’re all difficult matches. I don’t know what to expect from Samoa, for instance. Last time I saw them play it was back in 2002 and I certainly expect a very physical team.
“As for Scotland, although we did win the last Six Nations game (8-0) against them, we didn’t do so by a large margin. Finally we played Spain in a Test in December which went pretty well.
“However concentration will need to be very high in every single game as motivation will be very strong in all the teams we will be facing as they seek qualification for the World Cup.
Icing on the cake
“We want to secure qualification to WRWC 2014 really badly. We’ve worked hard for many years now in order to get to play at the top level of the Game and we have grown a lot more mature.
“Participating in WRWC 2014 would just be the icing on the cake.”
Gaudino was a member of the Italian squad that played at Women’s Rugby World Cup 2002 in Spain and has fond memories of the early days of her international career.
“I remember when I found out I’d been called up, I was just overjoyed. I almost couldn’t believe it as it was my second year with the national women’s team and I was one of the ‘little ones’ in the group.
“I also remember my debut was in the first match we played against England, which we lost by quite a few points. The rest was just a string of emotions and it really was a unique experience.”
Gaudino and Italy will hope to add another chapter to their Women’s Rugby World Cup history by securing qualification and taking their place alongside defending champions New Zealand, England, Australia, France, Canada, USA, Ireland, Wales and the yet to be determined African and Asian qualifiers at France 2014.
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