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Ireland at the 2019 Rugby World Cup

O’Connell: ‘World Class’ Parisse Makes Massive Difference For Italy

O’Connell: ‘World Class’ Parisse Makes Massive Difference For Italy

Paul O’Connell and Devin Toner have both spoken about what a difference Sergio Parisse could make to the Italian team if he is passed fit for Sunday’s Pool D showdown in London.

Italy were without their regular number 8 and captain Sergio Parisse for their opening two Rugby World Cup games against France and Canada. He has been nursing a haematoma in his calf, and remained with his club Stade Francais in Paris to get extensive treatment on the injury.

With a series of final tests showing a ‘significant reduction of the haematoma’, the 32-year-old talisman will link up with the Italian camp in Cobham for training today and aim to prove his fitness ahead of this weekend’s crunch clash with Ireland at the Olympic Stadium.

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Ireland are entering into a mini-Six Nations over the next fortnight as they take on regular rivals Italy and France. A win this Sunday would seal a quarter-final place for Joe Schmidt’s men, with the French match in Cardiff confirming the final pool placings.

Ireland and South Africa are the only two teams to boast a 100% scrum and lineout return from the first two rounds, and captain Paul O’Connell knows what a difference a fit-again Parisse could make to the Italian set piece.

“There’s probably a bit of a mind-shift now over the next two weeks, playing two Six Nations teams in those two weeks and two teams who know us very well,” said O’Connell.

“We know them very well too and we’ve had very close games with France in the last two years and have been lucky enough to beat them. With Italy in Rome (this year), we were lucky enough to beat them too.

“It’s two massive games ahead now.┬áParisse makes a massive difference for the Italians, he’s obviously a world class player. A lot of their defensive and attacking lineouts run around him. We talked today about having a 100% set piece – it’s going to be a lot harder to do that against Italy.

“Around the field he can produce that something different, that maybe the teams (we’ve played) in the last two weeks haven’t had.┬áSo we’ve got to be ready for that.”

O’Connell’s second row colleague Devin Toner, who was back close to his best in the 44-10 win over Romania, reckons that a fully recovered Parisse would ‘definitely change the dynamic’ for Sunday’s encounter.

“He controls the lineout (for Italy), he owns it, he calls it. So, he’s a real threat if he does play. He’s the talisman, he spurs everything good about Italy. If he does play, it would be a coup for them,” admitted the Meath man.

After facing two teams outside the top 15 in the World Rugby rankings, half-backs Eoin Reddan and Ian Madigan know they are in for a much stiffer test this week from the Azzurri who claimed the scalp of Ireland as recently as March 2013.

Mindful of avoiding another such upset, Reddan remarked: “I think Italy will be annoyed with the way they played in their last match (a hard-earned 23-18 win over Canada) which means they will come out harder this week.

“I suppose for them they will have been looking at this game from the start knowing this is the game they need to win. I expect them to throw everything at us.”

Madigan, fresh from his first World Cup start at out-half, added: “We have to turn it up a few gears. Italy are a very good side, they beat us in the Six Nations two years ago. We’ll certainly be hoping to play our ‘A’ game this week.”