It’s been a memorable month for Bianca Coltellini. The Gloucester-Hartpury flanker and UWE Bristol Performance Sport scholar has been selected to represent Italy at the Women’s Six Nations.
UWE Sport sat down for a chat with Bianca about life as a sports scholar and how she has the chance to play at one of rugby’s biggest tournaments.
What was your reaction when you found out you were picked for the Six Nations?
Well they have two training camps to see all the players that are available, but that didn’t mean anything to me at the time as I was out with an injury to my knee. That kind of broke my hopes of being selected, I never thought it was going to happen. But when they actually named the squad I was over the moon, I couldn’t believe it.
This is your first year here as a UWE Sport scholar. What have they offered you to help you progress as a player?
Being here as well as playing for Gloucester-Hartpury means I can get more training sessions every week. Playing for UWE means I can get two extra sessions of rugby to help me improve, and if I wasn’t here I’d have this massive deficit where I wouldn’t be training.
They’ve also helped me to get through my knee injury. I’ve been doing a lot of rehab in the gym which has helped to maintain my leg muscle and stay in good shape whilst I couldn’t be out running on it.
Why do you think UWE Bristol is such a good place for young athletes and sportsmen and women, like yourself?
Well all the facilities here are awesome and the gym, in particular, is great. Even though the rugby team here at UWE aren’t in the top league, the coaches are really good and super supportive. The uni gives you so many opportunities and living in Bristol is just great. Since I’ve been here I’ve just had everything I’ve needed to progress.
Back to the Six Nations next month, is it daunting knowing you could be coming up against some of the best players in the world, or are you excited for the challenge?
It is quite intimidating. It’s weird, after going to watch the Six Nations I was used to seeing those kinds of players on the pitch… but now I’m sharing a room with them, eating with them; I still can’t believe it.
We’ve got so many experienced players, like our captain (Sara Barattin), who have been playing for so many years. They’ve all been through this and have really made me feel welcome because they know it can be quite scary.
If you were given the chance to get out on the pitch during the tournament, who’s the one player you really wouldn’t want to go up against?
For me it would be Sarah Bern who plays for England. She plays at Gloucester with me and you see her performing in training and you think ‘I do not want to go there!’
I know quite a lot of the England team and there is one who’s even younger than me called Ellie Kildunne who’s been picked for England too. We played at Hartpury academy together and she is unreal; she can step anyone. So I wouldn’t want to face her either!
And finally, if you could score against any team at the Six Nations who would you like it to be?
It would definitely be England. It’s funny, I remember when I first went to Hartpury we had meetings with our coach to write down our short term, mid term and long term goals. My long term goal was to play at the Six Nations within five years and it’s only taken three! So my coach told me as a joke to change it to scoring against England, so that’s now my ultimate goal.
Bianca in action for Italy at a Rugby Sevens tournament.
Interview conducted and written by Jamie Hore