Six Nations: Mighty Sergio Parisse the man who towers over Italy's failings

 

Captaining Italy is a job that demands an ability to man-manage an ever-evolving crisis. More often than not when Italy play, Italy lose and it was John Kirwan, the former All Black great and then Italy coach, who once neatly summed up the end-game for the captain as "invariably dealing with the crisis of defeat". It is a fire -fighting role in the Towering Inferno.

Kirwan gave Sergio Parisse his first cap 11 years ago and drew comparisons between the rangy young man and Zinzan Brooke. He knew what he was talking about, as did a later Italy coach Nick Mallett when he took the decision to appoint Parisse his captain five years ago. The South African is another of rugby's coaching globetrotters to have been mightily impressed by Parisse.

The player's return to the Italy side after the reduction of his suspension for swearing at the referee during a game for Stade Français is a huge fillip for the visitors to Twickenham on Sunday. It may not have any bearing on the result – this is an Italian team that does not travel well, as one away win in the Six Nations lays bare – but it will make the outcome more challenging for England in general and their back row and half-backs in particular, and it will certainly lift his team-mates. That is what happens when one of the world's leading players pulls on the shirt, all 6ft 5in of him. It's like Ryan Giggs running out for Wales, or George Best for Northern Ireland, only with more oomph and never a question over his utter commitment.

Parisse will collect his 94th cap at the age of 29. It will be his 41st outing in the Six Nations – and only seven times has he finished on the winning side. The last was in the opening round of this Six Nations when he was at the heart of Italy's victory over France. That was a sit-up-and-take-note triumph, though regular viewers of Italian rugby were soon slouched back on the couch as the team was drubbed in Edinburgh – another false dawn, another crisis of defeat.

Parisse has spent much of his season in crisis management. He captains Stade, too, and the Parisian giants are struggling in the lower reaches of the Top 14. Three weeks ago they beat Bordeaux-Bègles in Paris but finished the game without their captain after he received an abrupt red card for swearing at the referee. Parisse denies having said anything out of line. "It's a big mistake, sir," he yelled in French as he made his way off. "Shitty call," he suggested once he reached the touchline.

A 40-day ban followed – his second major punishment after an eight-week penalty for eye-gouging in New Zealand in 2009 – with 10 of them suspended. On appeal it was reduced to 20 and that runs its course today.

It means Italy have their totem restored for Twickenham, one of seven changes to the side beaten convincingly by Wales two weeks ago. Luciano Orquera, man of the match against France, mug of the match against Scotland, is restored at 10. Five of those changes come in the pack. Forward power was supposed to be Italy's saving grace. But that failed against Wales. Parisse will bring back dynamism even if it has the makings of another lonely afternoon of crisis management for the man born in Argentina.

There is nothing plastic, though, about his nationality – his parents are Italian, his rugby-playing father's work took the family to South America, where his son was born. Parisse grew up speaking Italian at home and has been playing in Italy since he was 17. A year later Kirwan called and sent him out to make his debut against New Zealand. It was the toughest start but it was also the start of something special – this is a man with no equals at home and few anywhere in that sizeable No 8 shirt.

Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol
art'Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' followed hoax reports artist had been arrested and unveiled
Life and Style
tech

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

Arts and Entertainment
James Blunt's debut album Back to Bedlam shot him to fame in 2004
music

Singer says the track was 'force-fed down people's throats'

News
peopleJust weeks after he created dress for Alamuddin-Clooney wedding
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010
films

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

Sport
football West Brom vs Man Utd match report: Blind grabs point, but away form a problem for Van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
Bloom Time: Mira Sorvino
tvMira Sorvino on leaving movie roles for 'The Intruders'
Arts and Entertainment
Leonardo DiCaprio talks during the press conference for the film
films

Film follows park rangers in the Congo

Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
News
i100
Sport
Adel Taraabt in action for QPR against West Ham earlier this month
footballQPR boss says midfielder is 'not fit to play football'
News
First woman: Valentina Tereshkova
peopleNASA guinea pig Kate Greene thinks it might fly
Voices
Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary: 'There are pressures which we are facing but there is not a crisis'
voices

Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?

Life and Style
The charity Sands reports that 11 babies are stillborn everyday in the UK
lifeEleven babies are stillborn every day in the UK, yet no one speaks about this silent tragedy
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album