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.