ITALY captain Sergio Parisse has described fellow RBS Six Nations icon Brian O’Driscoll as being synonymous with Irish rugby ahead of today’s clash at the Stadio Olimpico.
O’Driscoll will be playing his 60th and potentially final match of the championship with his future beyond his likely presence on the Lions’ summer tour to Australia yet to be decided.
The 34-year-old passed concussion protocols to take his place in Ireland’s starting XV in what will be his last match in Rome.
“When you talk about Ireland and rugby, you can’t not talk about Brian O’Driscoll,” Parisse said. “He’s one of the best centres in the history of the game. This will be his final match in Rome and he will want to finish with a win. When I think about a centre, I think about Brian O’Driscoll over all the rest.”
Both Italy and Ireland could finish the Six Nations as high as third place or as low as bottom, with events in Paris where France host Scotland shaping their final position.
The Azzurri, who fell agonisingly short of upsetting England on Sunday, have not beaten Ireland since joining the championship in 2000 – a record Parisse wants to rectify.
“Sometimes when we play big teams we get a little bit scared and we were like that before England at Twickenham,” the Stade Francais No 8 said. “But we played a really good match and were very close to them in terms of the result.
“Last time we played Ireland here in the Six Nations we only lost to them late on because of a drop goal. They’re one of the teams that we haven’t been able to beat so we know it will be difficult, but if we show the same attitude that we did at Twickenham, we should get the result.”
Italy prop Andrea Lo Cicero will be playing his 103rd and final Test after announcing he will retire at the end of the season.
Parisse added: “We want to finish the Six Nations strongly for Andrea because it’s his last game in an Italian jersey.”
It has emerged that Ireland stand-off Jonathan Sexton has been ruled out for up to six weeks with a foot injury – casting doubt over his participation in the British and Irish Lions tour to Australia this summer.
Sexton damaged a tendon in his left foot at the end of training on Thursday, resulting in his withdrawal from today’s starting XV.