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.

Sport
Murray celebrates reaching the final
tennis
Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
Life and Style
tech
News
James Corden’s social media footprint was a factor for CBS
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Henry VIII played by Damien Lewis
tvReview: Scheming queens-in-waiting, tangled lines of succession and men of lowly birth rising to power – sound familiar?
Sport
Harry Kane celebrates scoring the opening goal for Spurs
footballLive: All the latest transfer news as deadline day looms
Arts and Entertainment
Master of ceremony: Jeremy Paxman
tvReview: Victory for Jeremy Paxman in this absorbing, revealing tale
News
Sir David Attenborough
people
Life and Style
Young girl and bowl of cereal
food + drink
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

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness