The Six Nations’ greatest one-man band

For all the Italian analogies that do the rounds: Franceso Totti is Italy’s Emperor of Rome, Valentino Rossi is the Don of Italy, there’s only one King of Italy, Sergio Parisse. The man who has kept Italian rugby breathing, kept the Azzurri respectable; the one-man band.

The Italian captain is second to only Brian O’Driscoll in the most amount of minutes played in the Six Nations. And, in spite of being a No. 8, the Stade Français man has the hands and vision of a half-back combination.

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Yes, a seemingly great footballer, but the No.8 has an unmovable doggedness in him, and possesses that cutting edge which makes for one of the best players in the game. Although not commendable, the tenacity is shown in the Italian skipper by *that* eye-gouge on All Black lock, Isaac Ross. Not something to promote, but a clear savageness within the Italian which makes his game plan so ruthless; he plays on the edge.

When just 24, he was given the national armband, and at the same age became the first Italian player to be nominated for IRB Player of the Year. He’s stylish without being flashy; the ultimate modern-day rugby player. 14 international tries to his name says this more than anything, he’s one of the most dangerous back rows in the game.

The captain was instrumental in victories such as beating the Springboks, 20-18, in the most recent Autumn internationals, and with a new found zest in the Italian camp under Irish coach, Conor O’Shea, the Azzuri could continue to top the bigger sides in this year’s Six Nations tournament.

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Still, with just nine wins in 55 Six Nations games to Parisse’s name, the Italian poster boy will want to bow out – in what is likely his final Six Nations – without the unwanted wooden spoon. Former Italian coach, Nick Mallet, believes the Azzurri could start this by upsetting an out of sorts Welsh side, in the opening championship game in Rome. Parisse will be crucial if Italy are to topple Wales following recent wins over France and Ireland in the Italian capital.

“I would not be surprised if there is a shock in Rome… The results are very close there. It’s a much bigger ask to beat Italy in Rome.

“It’s the worst time to take on an Italian side because there is a lot of hope, especially after November where they beat South Africa.”

Nick Mallet

With 121 caps to the skipper’s name, he will still be on everyones radar, and those endless ‘ones to watch’ lists that seem to flood the mainstream rugby news pages. At the youthful age of 33, Parisse still has plenty to offer in the engine room, and will once again be crucial to Italy being competitive in the 2017 Six Nations.

Let’s give this world-class player the send-off his legacy deserves.