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Alyssa D'Inca: 'It's better to be last of the best than first of the second'

By Martyn Thomas
PARIS, FRANCE - APRIL 14: Alyssa D'Inca #11 of Italia runs with the ball against Morgane Bourgeois #23 of France during the Guinness Women's Six Nations 2024 match between France and Italy at Stade Jean Bouin on April 14, 2024 in Paris, France.(Photo by Catherine Steenkeste - Federugby/Federugby via Getty Images)

It seems almost paradoxical to be talking to Alyssa D’Inca about resetting focus in a week in which she was nominated for both try and player of the round in the Guinness Women’s Six Nations 2024.

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But that is where D’Inca and Italy find themselves. The hard-running winger’s second-half salvo in Paris last Sunday was scintillating yet it was also futile, France having built a 33-3 lead by the time she crossed for the first of her two tries.

Defeat leaves Italy fourth in the standings with one win from three matches and with work to do, starting against Scotland in Parma on Saturday, if they are to haul themselves into the top three and book their place in both WXV 1 2024 and Women’s Rugby World Cup 2025.

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“We’ve worked on taking what happened in France out of our heads and resetting ourselves,” D’Inca tells RugbyPass.

“It will be a very important match [against Scotland], it will be a very tough match. So, we’ve got to focus on some aspects, and we are very confident that it will be a great match and we’ve had to work a lot in these past days.”

There is, of course, a more optimistic – perhaps realistic – way to look at Italy’s current predicament. The Azzurre’s two defeats came at the hands of Championship pace-setters England and France, while they returned from Ireland in round two with a crucial victory.

Italy know that wins against Scotland and Wales on consecutive Saturdays will be enough for at least a top-three finish and tickets to Canada and England.

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Asked, therefore, if the matches against the Irish, Scottish and Welsh were the focus pre-tournament, D’Inca replies “yes, absolutely” and she is confident the Azzurre can bounce back from defeat in Parma this weekend as they did in Dublin last month.

“Our group is very aware of their capacities and I’m pretty sure that if we wasted a day thinking about the past, it would be more difficult to focus on the next step,” she added.

“So, we’re going to think about the next game. We need to be very, very focused on the next step.”

Recent history would suggest that stride will be a forward one. Last year’s 29-21 defeat in Edinburgh was their first in the fixture since 2017 and Scotland have beaten the Azzurre only once in Italy, a quarter of a century ago.

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Italy did miss out on the inaugural WXV 2 title, by the slenderest of points difference margins, to Scotland last October but the two teams did not play each other in Cape Town and D’Inca insists the Azzurre are not concerned with revenge, instead describing the contest as an “in-or-out match”.

“I think that we are almost at the same level, so they are our principal competitor and this [match] is so important,” she says.

“Also, our level of mindset in preparation for the game because we know that this game means a lot, not only in the Six Nations tournament but also for the World Cup and WXV.”

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An eighth successive home victory against Scotland would put Italy in the box seat to claim WXV 1 and Women’s RWC 2025 qualification with a trip to Cardiff to come a week on Saturday.

Despite watching Wales suffer defeats to Australia, Canada and New Zealand in the inaugural WXV 1 tournament, and struggle for form since, D’Inca has no doubts about where she wants to play this October.

“It is more important to play against the greatest teams of the world,” she says. “It is, of course, tougher but it is a question of ambition.

“We want to play at the highest level, and I think that it’s better to be last of the best than first of the second.

“So, we work every day, we train every day, and we play thinking about the highest level and where we want to arrive.”

D’Inca hopes that journey will also include a stop in England for a second Women’s Rugby World Cup next year and although the extra places on offer through WXV offer a safety net, she is determined to help the Azzurre secure their place as soon as possible.

“If we manage to finish third [in the Women’s Six Nations], the next months will be more calm, quieter, and we won’t have the obsession to think about the next game, the next game, the next competition,” D’Inca explains. “It’s crucial.”

What her devastating two-try performance at Stade Jean Bouin last Sunday did prove, moreover, is that D’Inca possesses a talent that deserves to be on the biggest stage.

Her first try was the result of hours spent on the training pitch as she came off her wing and took a pass from Beatrice Rigoni to crash over the line from five metres.

“It was the coronation of teamwork,” D’Inca says. “All the backs were in the right place at the right time, and I think if the ball went behind me, the try would be scored in the same way.”

By her own admission, the second was a more individual effort as she received the ball inside her own half, pinned her ears back and beat the covering defender.

Her only thought when the ball came her way: “Run Forest, run!”

“I think the second one is the one that puts my points in lights because it is a 60-metre run and I love to run, and speed is maybe my best skill.”

Whatever happens in Parma and Cardiff over the next eight days, don’t expect that to be the last time D’Inca is Italy’s headline act.

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