If it's true you that learn more about yourself when you lose, there can't be much left for Sergio Parisse to discover. Parisse has played in 134 Tests, and lost exactly 100 of them. From the first, 64-10 to the All Blacks in Hamilton way back in 2002, to the last, 29-27 to Scotland in Rome last March, Parisse's lost every which way a man can: trounced, thrashed, pummelled, pipped, robbed and routed. A hundred losses is a record. And after it all, Parisse still carries himself like he is undefeated.
Next weekend he will lead Italy out to play Scotland at Murrayfield. It will be his 66th Six Nations match, which will put him one ahead of Brian O'Driscoll. Another record. By the end of the year, after the Six Nations, the World Cup warm-ups, and the tournament itself, the 35-year-old No 8 will be closing in on Richie McCaw's all-time haul of 148 caps.
"Sometimes," he says, "You stop for a moment and think: 'Wow, I've played a few games?'" Most of the time, he says, he is too busy thinking about the next one to worry about the last. "Maybe it will be my last Six Nations," Parisse says. "But personally, I don't like to think or talk too much about the future. In my head, I know I want to play in my fifth World Cup.
"I never even really imagined I'd play in one when I was a kid. And then, after the World Cup, I don't know, maybe I'll stop, maybe I'll continue, it depends how I feel mentally and physically, and of course, on what's going to be best for the Italian team. Every time I put on the Italian jersey it's really important to me that I feel I'm representing the history of the team."
Parisse almost quit Italy back in 2015, but their head coach, Conor O'Shea, persuaded him to stay on. He wanted Parisse to help him rebuild the whole Italian set-up. "In the last three years with Conor, together, we've made a lot of changes in Italy," Parisse says. "We've been working a lot behind the scenes with the two franchises, Zebre and Treviso." It's paying off, he says, only you wouldn't necessarily know it from the national team's results.
"It's like there's been a lot of progress in terms of the system, but not in terms of the results. Which is frustrating, because it's difficult to say we are growing but we are still losing games."
Right now, they are on a 17-game losing streak in the Six Nations. When Parisse says "we don't win consistently" what he really means is that they don't win at all. Italy have only won three games in the past two years. How many times can one man keep getting knocked down? "Well I'm the kind of person that's very positive anyway," Parisse says. "Even when I stop playing I'll be the same person, you know, in everything I do, I never give up."
Sunday Indo Sport