Irish fear return of Italian talisman Parisse

Ireland are anxiously waiting to see whether Italy captain Sergio Parisse makes his much-awaited return from injury against them in their World Cup clash on Sunday.

Irish fear return of Italian talisman Parisse
Italy captain Sergio Parisse could be back in the Italy side for their match against Ireland. Photo: Glynn Kirk/AFP

The 32-year-old No 8 is the one player who can turn the Italians from the sloppy unit they appeared in a heavy loss to France and a narrow victory over minnows Canada into a team ready to challenge the Six Nations champions, admitted Ireland skipper Paul O'Connell.

The Argentina-born star missed the first two games recovering from an operation.

“Parisse makes a massive difference for them, he's obviously a world-class player,” said O'Connell, who is in his last campaign for Ireland before ending his career with France's three-time European champions Toulon.

The Irish have looked in impressive form in Pool D, dispensing easily of Canada, 50-5. Then a revamped XV coasted to a 44-10 victory over Romania.

Now, though, they face their toughest two encounters against Italy and a top of the table showdown with France. A win over the Italians at the Olympic Stadium on Sunday would see them qualify for the last eight.

Parisse, who has been recovering from an operation to drain a haematoma undertaken the Monday before the tournament began, could have an impact on how the game pans out, according to O'Connell.

“A lot of their defensive and attacking lineouts run around him, we talked about having 100 per cent set-piece (against Romania) – 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 in the last two weeks haven't had. So we've got to be ready for that,” added O'Connell, who turns 36 on October 20th.

O'Connell's second row partner Devin Toner, who may lose out for the Italy game to Iain Henderson who scored a try in an impressive game against Canada, said Parisse had the ability to transform the Italian side.

“Parisse would definitely change the dynamic,” said Toner, who stands at a whopping 2.08m (6ft 8in).

“He controls the lineout, he owns it, he calls it: so he's a real threat if he does play. But he's the talisman, he spurs everything good about Italy.So if he does play it would be a coup for them.”

“You never want to see players injured of course. I'm sure the neutrals want to see him play but I don't know if we do to be
honest!” added the 29-year-old.

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Italy’s Renzi wants ex-ECB boss Draghi to become prime minister: report

Ex-PM Matteo Renzi would like to see former European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi become prime minister of Italy, a party source told Reuters on Sunday.

Italy's Renzi wants ex-ECB boss Draghi to become prime minister: report
Matteo Renzi. Image: Andreas Solaro/ POOL / AFP

“I would say that is one of our proposals,” confirmed the source, who declined to be named.

The Italian government collapsed last week when PM Giuseppe Conte resigned. The former coalition allies are currently trying to come to an agreement and sort out their differences.

The centre-left government had been in turmoil ever since former premier Matteo Renzi withdrew his Italia Viva party earlier this month, a move that forced Conte to step down this week.

During the past year, Renzi frequently criticised Conte’s management of the pandemic and economic crisis.

Italy’s La Stampa newspaper also reported on Sunday that President Sergio Mattarella was considering Draghi for the prime ministerial role. However, Mattarella’s office promptly denied this, saying there had been no contact between them.

So far, there has been no comment from Draghi, who hasn't been seen much in the public eye since 2019.

Italy's president, Sergio Mattarella, gave ruling parties more time on Friday to form a new government, after the resignation of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. 

Coalition parties Italia Viva, the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) and anti-establishment 5-Star Movement must come to an agreement to allow the government to heal. 

Renzi, a former prime minister himself, has pubilcly stated that he does not want to talk about who should lead the next government at this stage, reasoning that the parties need to agree on a way forward first.

“Any effort today to fuel a discussion about Draghi is offensive to Draghi and above all to the president of the republic,” Renzi said in an interview published on Sunday with Corriere della Sera.

A senior Italia Viva lawmaker also told Reuters that “If the president gives a mandate to Draghi, we would certainly support this”. 

Renzi, whose party is not even registering three percent support in opinion polls, quit the coalition over Conte’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and his plans for spending more than 200 billion euros from a European Union fund to help Italy’s damaged economy.

READ ALSO: Why do Italy's governments collapse so often?