Parisse’s presence is pivotal for Italy


Earlier in the week, news arrived that Sergio Parisse had successfully appealed his 30 day ban for swearing, and it had consequently been reduced to 20 days. This means the ban runs out on Saturday, the day before Italy’s game against England. It raises questions surrounding the risible nature of a ban that ends the day before such an important game – he has surely been training fully this week even though technically still ‘banned’ – but that is an argument for another time. With the help of the latest Accenture stats, we’ve considered just how important he is to his nation’s cause.

Parisse always seems to stand out in what has been, if we’re honest, a largely average Italian team. This is the mark of a truly world class player. His presence in the Italian ranks seems to galvanise the team, bringing the quality of their performance up a notch. Mike Brown has been quoted in the press recently as saying that England will not be focusing on one player and while he has to say that, it is probable that England’s defensive gurus have spent a large amount of time working out strategies to contain a player who is consistently one of the best on the pitch.

The stats, without actually proving any great trend, do help to illuminate his importance – although they are also slightly confusing. In 2009 Parisse carried a staggering 513 metres over the course of Italy’s five games. This was, bafflingly, one of only two occasions over the past seven Six Nations in which they have failed to win a game. Again, proof that stats will only get you so far. In that same tournament, he made 76 carries which means his average metres gained were almost seven – no mean feat for a forward who has to do a lot of close-quarters carrying as well.

This Six Nations, we have seen proof of the extra dimension that he adds to Italy’s play. In a losing cause at Murrayfield, he still had the audacity and the skill to flick a delightful inside pass off the base of a scrum for back-row teammate Zanni to crash over. And while he did not make the metres he usually does, he did manage to complete 21 passes – an incredible number for a forward. In that epic win against France he was at the forefront of the action, making 104 metres and beating three defenders in 12 carries as well as 11 tackles (with none missed) and six completed passes. Whilst stats cannot tell you everything, anyone who saw the game will know those figures accurately reflect Parisse’s titanic effort that afternoon.

Sadly for him, and Italy, that game did not herald the start of a new era for Italian rugby, as many had predicted, but rather said more about the dire state of the French national team. Italy have failed to kick on since then. They were convincingly beaten in Scotland before losing disappointingly in Rome to Wales – a game that could have done with some of Parisse’s brilliance. One man does not make a team, and much as Italy would like for Parisse to win games single-handedly the rest of the team simply cannot match the consistent quality that he shows. Therein lies the issue for Italian rugby.

Italy need a boost. Parisse’s return will surely give them one, but is it enough to see them over the line against England at Twickenham? Probably not. Nevertheless, most rugby fans will be glad to see a man who is at times genuinely world class back for the final two rounds of Six Nations action.

By Jamie Hosie
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43

Accenture is working with the RBS 6 Nations to use technology to make the championship more interactive for fans by providing deeper insight into match data – follow @accenturerugby for all the latest stats and analysis.

14 thoughts on “Parisse’s presence is pivotal for Italy

  1. Apparently he can make a pretty good wine from nothing but water and feed an entire stadium with just a couple of loaves and a fish.

    Flippancy aside, he is a special player and I have nothing but admiration for someone who gives so much, so often, in a losing cause. Sunday’s game will be better for having him included, so I’m pleased he’s going to be on the team sheet.

    Something that stuck with me though are some of Haskell’s comments coming back from Super Rugby, that they don’t spend much time (if any) focussing on the opposition they are facing each week. All the time and energy focusses on what they are going to do the opposition, not vice-versa. I like this mindset and can see how it results in a more positive approach to the game, so hope it’s something we adopt more over here. Hopefully the camp hasn’t become too distracted by how great Parisse is this week.

      1. I’m a little concerned that we may be going with Robshaw, Wood & Haskell. A decent trio if we want a close quarter battle for 80 mins and survival of the fittest, but I’m hoping for more than being victors in an arm wrestle.

        I hope we can get that sort of margin, make sure we go to Cardiff with an almost insurmountable points difference.

        1. england already have a positive points difference of 36, as opposed to the welsh positive of 19, so we are in a good place even if we do have a bit of a blip against italy, as long as we come away with the win. not to mention that england have the full compliment of 6 points, as opposed to 4 being the next highest (although that can swing quite easily)

          with regards to parisse, he is a truly world class player, in fact i would feel pretty comfortable arguing that he is one of the best players in the world (possibly the best no.8). from an english point of view i am happy and sad to see him back. happy because i do love to see him play, and beating italy with parisse is a better win than beating them without him. but i am sad because he has an impact on his team that no other player seems to have, and i dont just mean other players in the italy team. i would say the only person who could come close in how important that are to their national team would be juan fernandez-lobbe.

          matt, with regards to your comments about how the northern hemisphere prepare for games vs the south, i can see your point, and it is a more “positive” approach to a game. however many would argue that this is the reason you see such high scoring games in the south, because they spend so much time thinking about what they are going to do to the other team, that they dont spend enough time on defence.

          i have always perceived it that when a south team plays a south team you get high scores, but when they play a north team it becomes a lot lower scoring. i agree that this is likely due to the different approaches to matches. i feel (and maybe i am saying this because i am a northern hemisphere person, although i did spend time playing in Aus) that defence is the most important aspect of rugby, so i would do my homework on the other team, because you need to know what they will throw at you.

          1. If, for example, both England and Wales win by the same margin this weekend a 9 point win in Cardiff would give Wales the championship. Wales would go into the game with everything to gain, not just party poopers. The current points difference doesn’t have me sitting comfortably! Lots of ifs and buts with both Scotland and Italy having a big part to play, however creeping past Italy by a few points isn’t what we should be hoping for in my opinion. Yes we have to win first, but I want to see us win well.

            My point above should have said “focussing on what we will do to them in defence and attack”. It’s not devaluing defence. When you look at what makes NZ rugby so special it’s their ability to execute their skills at pace, under pressure with low error counts, because that’s what they spend their time practising, not worrying about what line player X is going to run in the match this weekend. Embracing a bit of that approach would help us in my opinion.

          2. “If, for example, both England and Wales win by the same margin this weekend a 9 point win in Cardiff would give Wales the championship”

            i think i misunderstood your working here… currently there are +17 points up on wales, which would mean that if both won by the same margin (ie both wing by say 10 points) this weekend, it would mean wales would have to win by 18 points to equal england on tournament points, therefore taking points difference into play (at which wales would be +1 above england due to recovering the 17 points and adding 1)

            as i said, i may have misunderstood your working.

            i didn’t think you were devaluing defence, i just wanted to point out how important it was in my point of view. its a fair point that the skill sets across the board seem to be much higher in the southern hemisphere. as i said, i spent some time in Aus, and when i returned to england i was by far the most skillful player in the teams i played for even though i played backrow. in fact my skills were more advanced that i ended up playing all across the backline when circumstances required it (ie if someone was injured). but i think the mindset in the north is more focused on physicality and dominance than skill. both have their positives and their negatives. to take a saying my dad taught me when i was younger “forwards will win you a game, backs decide by how much”. i think the northern hemisphere focus on the first part, the south on the 2nd. australia is a great example of this, the wallabies (especially at the moment) have a decent pack of forwards, but their real strength is in the backs. their mentality is to try and secure possession for the backs, in the north the forwards are used more as a means of going forward and attacking.

          3. If the points difference remains the same going into a final weekend Wales winning by 9 would add 9 to theirs (making them +28) and subtract 9 from ours (making us +27).

            Wales are in with a real shout at this and I think their chances are being underestimated by a lot of the English. A big win for us this weekend is needed to make the championship safe(ish)

          4. ahhh i see! i forgot to think about how it would also affect our points against column! i bow to your superior maths!

            and completely agree, not only should england aim to put as many points as they can on the italians, but we will have to hope for a scotland win, or a tight game. fortunately england play on the sunday, so they will know what the situation is going into the game.

            i am not sure which england should be wary of more, a wales team with a sniff of the championship, or a wales team with nothing to lose and just the english to upset… either way we can guarantee that the welsh will be looking to wizz on the english bonfire!

  2. Delighted Parisse is back. A joy to watch play rugby, even if against England.

    On a seperate note, I’m not sure how many English supporters are underestimating the Welsh. Millenium stadium is an incredibly difficult place to win at and the Welsh are coming good at the right time. England have fallen at the last hurdle too many times in my memory to underestimate this one.

    1. not sure too many people are underestimating the welsh. if you look above both Matt and myself had a discussion about england needing to rack up as many points as possible against italy, so that they are going to cardiff knowing that the welsh would have to beat them by a big margin to win the championship.

      england vs wales in cardiff is probably one of the hardest matched out there for the english. regardless of form, the welsh always get themselves psyched up for england, and they save their best performance. this is magnified when they are at home, because they have 80,000 welsh fans calling for english blood!

      i can quite easily see wales beating england in the final match, i just hope that this weekend the scots can at least keep the game tight, and the english can run riot against the italian, so we at least have the championship (as long as the welsh dont hump us!). obviously a grand slam and triple crown would be lovely, but winning the championship comes first.

    2. It’s just the view that Wales are possible party poopers and may deny us a grand slam, rather than it being a potential championship decider.

      It just seems to me that some of the English fans (and media) are forgetting that Wales are in with a decent shout of retaining the title. If they win on Saturday then unless we put a cricket score on Italy it’s still a fairly open contest.

  3. I am not delighted that he is back.

    NOT because I don’t enjoy seeing him play – because I do, he is a great player and the 6N is richer for his involvement
    NOT because he will strengthen the Italian pack, and team overall, because I think it important that the best players play – even against England.

    It is because I abhor these disciplinary appeals, that inevitably seem to reduce bans on technicalities. Also, with a handful of notable exceptions, the top players get far more lenient bans than the rest of us at ordinary levels.

    The respect for officials is one thing that stands Rugby apart from many other sports, and I strongly feel that his initial ban was probably on the short side, and that an appeal to reduce it puts everyone involved in it, in a poor light.

  4. Inarguably Sergio parisse is one of best and interesting players to watch, he plays at such a level above the rest of his team mates he drags them up a gear or two. A real quality player my irb player of the year. The English don’t want to underestimate the azzuri with a hungry parisse marching his Roman army into the lions den for battle very influential player, won’t surprise me if he causes an upset in the English camp. We (Wales) have a real test of commitment and true grit ahead of us in Scotland. I think it’ll be mostly a forwards game but all points will come from the backlines. But thats only half the battle, then it’s the big one, the that people from all over the world will be watching in anticipation. Will Wales dig their studs in deep on home soil to defend their crown in one of the most atmospheric venues in the world that is the millennium stadium, or will the England XV come with an army of Anglo Saxon fans in a see of white and and red crosses, and triumph to become the team to beat in the northern hemisphere. Only time will tell but I can guarantee you one thing its not only will I have the best seat infront of the screen down my local but it’s gonna be one hell of a fight!!!! C’mon wales!!!!!

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