THERE was no doubting the boss as Italy ran through their final training session before facing Scotland today, but Sergio Parisse can’t fill every position.
If he could Italy would be world-beaters, but they are instead very like Scotland in that they have a small core of world-class or potentially world-class performers around which they seek to mould a team capable of beating the world’s best. The Italians opened the Six Nations with victory over France this year and ended it beating Ireland, but they came unstuck against the Scots at Murrayfield, the 24-point defeat a record against the Scots in the championship.
So, Parisse is happy with progress, but wary. Born in Argentina while his Italian father worked there, he has become one of the world’s best players. He has beaten Scotland but lost on more occasions in a career stretching back 12 years, and while he believes Italy are improving year on year he feels Scotland are also. Both, however, have struggled to find their form on this tour, Italy losing 44-10 to the Springboks and following up with an even poorer display in going down 39-10 to the Samoans.
The team has been revamped, with ten changes, but Parisse remains at its core.
“I am proud to lead this team and proud of what we have achieved in recent years,” he said, “but this is about now and we know the last two matches against Samoa and South Africa were poor in terms of the results and the fact that we only played in fits. We have a last chance against Scotland to show our true level; to show the rugby we showed in the Six Nations. We have to play our best game now against Scotland.”
Parisse insisted that revenge for the Murrayfield defeat was not part of his motivation.
“We don’t prepare for the match thinking about revenge from the Six Nations, but, for sure, we remember our match with them in Edinburgh. Scotland played better than us, put us under pressure, and every single ruck was a big battle, so for us it’s important that we are more competitive against them. Scotland have also performed better than us here, especially against South Africa. They are a young side with a lot of new players but we stayed in the stadium after our game with Samoa and watched them against South Africa, and they are a very aggressive team.
“They put a lot of pressure on South Africa in the rucks, slowed South Africans’ ball all the time, so we know we need to be aggressive. We are looking to play our best rugby.”