Rugby World Cup 2021: Helen Nelson confident Scotland can take revenge in Italy ‘grudge match’

Scotland Women will begin their quest to reach the Rugby World Cup for the first time since 2010 when they take on Italy in Parma on Monday in the opening match of the European qualifying tournament.

Helen Nelson in action for Scotland during the Women's Six Nations match against Italy at Scotstoun in April. Picture: Ross MacDonald/SNS

The Italians defeated the Scots 41-20 in this year’s Six Nations at Scotstoun but Helen Nelson is confident Bryan Easson’s side can turn the tables at Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi.

Scotland made a sluggish start in April and were second best at the set-piece but centre Nelson believes they have learned their lessons.

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“At this level you can’t afford to have a slow first 20 minutes,” she said. “Teams build momentum and you start off on the wrong foot.

“To be honest, looking at the last time we played them, our set-piece wasn’t good enough. We didn’t win a lot of lineouts and the quality of ball from scrums wasn’t great, so our forwards have been working really hard at set-piece.

“We had a really honest review after that game and we said that wasn’t us and we didn’t play how we wanted to play. So we know that if we are all guns blazing and really on form we’ll beat Italy, without a doubt.”

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The four-team qualifier is being played in a round-robin format and, after Italy, Scotland will face Spain next Sunday and then Ireland a week on Saturday.

The winners qualify for next year’s World Cup in New Zealand and will go into Pool B with USA, Canada and an Asian qualifier. The runners-up will get a second bite at the cherry by going into a final qualifying repechage.

Nelson said she was happy to be face the hosts first.

“Italy for us is probably a bit of a grudge match,” she said. “If you’re going to win the tournament you’re going to have to win every game so we’re really excited to face them first up. And there’s big pressure on them as they have won the last couple of games [v Scotland] and are hosts.”

Around 2,000 fans are expected at the game which kicks off at 2pm BST. Scotland’s matches will be broadcast on BBC ALBA and all fixtures will be live-streamed on the Rugby World Cup website, Facebook and Twitter.

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