Andrea Giandomenico is the inspiration for former Italy prop.
Michela Merlo has come a long way in a very short time since she played her first game of rugby at the age of 26, in 2012.
Merlo decided to give rugby a try when she moved to the Italian city of Mantua, mainly because she wanted to meet new people. She quickly discovered that she had a natural aptitude for the sport and made rapid progress from club rugby into the front-row of Italy’s national women’s team.
There she was coached by Andrea Giandomenico, who took the side to the 2022 Women’s Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, and whose skills encouraged Merlo to move into coaching herself.
She is now scrum coach for Rugby Mantova’s men’s team and is responsible for running the club’s schools and mini-rugby programme.
“Initially I thought that, given my advanced age, coaching could be a good way to stay in the world of rugby and sport,” Merlo told World Rugby.
“Then slowly, with children and teenagers, I started to have real satisfaction seeing that I was able to communicate with them and convey what I wanted.
“Finally, I was lucky enough to meet a coach who truly inspired me and changed my life. I understood the importance that the coach’s role could have both from a technical and social point of view.”
Merlo is still in the early stages of her own coaching career but, as she demonstrated as a player, she is a fast learner and intends to use the experience of the Gallagher High Performance Academy to improve her coaching skills.
“It’s an opportunity to get to know other rugby realities and cultures, in order to be able to create my own vision as broad and critical as possible, as well as my own philosophy of rugby,” she said.