Sergio Parisse: The Talismanic Gladiator

January 23, 2017

When writing about this rugby giant, it is very easy to overuse adjectives – a man of immense leadership and dazzling skill whose importance to the game should not be underestimated!

National Hero

Sergio Parisse is Italy’s last known gladiator: stand aside Russell Crowe, this guy is the real Maximus Decimus Meridius. A leader by example, honourable role model and a warrior; this guy has it all. First capped for his country against the Allblacks aged just 18, you could say he was thrown in at the deep end. Now with 112 caps and the captains armband, Parisse has been the Italian beacon of light for the past decade leading them through times of darkness and adversity.

Undoubtedly one of the greatest backrow forwards the modern game has witnessed, Parisse is always at the heart of everything positive the Italins do. Numerous times we hear, ‘I bet Parisse wishes he wasn’t Italian, he deserves to be part of a World Cup winning team.’ It is becoming tiresome and I doubt this to be true. Parisse is proud to wear the blue of The Azzuri and humbly stands amongst his Italian brothers belting out Il Canto degli Italiani. What is more, he thrives in the underdog situation, playing each match as if his shackles have just been taken off.

He is a gifted talent with a national pride admired by all – but surely what else must be appreciated is his patience and virtue and refusal to pass the blame of the Italian failures onto any one of his teammates. The mark of a true professional, who channels any personal frustrations into an even more ferocious, influential and positive performance. As Simon Taylor said in the Scotsman earlier this year,


He displays only occasional glimpses of exasperation at the unfairness of it all, and largely seems to accept the situation for what it is, concentrating on doing all he can for his team.’

A Loyal Servant

A loyal servant to his club team, Stade Français, since 2005, Parisse was rewarded for his exertions this past weekend, when Stade overcame Clermont Auvergne to claim their 6th and Parisse’s 2nd Top 14 title. The 12-6 defeat was a real dagger in the heart for Clermont Auvergne who have now lost 11 of their last 12 finals.

Sergio Parisse is one of the most fabulously gifted yet modestly decorated (silverware) players the game has seen. He possesses an amazing armoury of weapons:

  • A brilliant runner with ball-in-hand 
  • Great vision and passing ability - especially at the crucial moments.
  • Often leads the line under the high ball and has fantastic agility for such a big guy. 
  • Defence is as solid as a rock
  • He's also F-ing cool

As Robin Scott-Elliott wrote in the Independent in 2013,

‘This is a man with no equals at home and few anywhere in that sizeable No 8 shirt.’

Has there been a more talismanic figure in International Rugby?

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