Sunday 20 October 2019

Italy head coach Conor O'Shea defends decision to rest captain Sergio Parisse

Italy head coach Conor O'Shea is pictured during the Captain's Run at the Fukuoka Hakatanomori Stadium, Fukuoka. Photo: Reuters/Matthew Childs
Italy head coach Conor O'Shea is pictured during the Captain's Run at the Fukuoka Hakatanomori Stadium, Fukuoka. Photo: Reuters/Matthew Childs

Independent.ie Sportsdesk

Italy head coach Conor O'Shea has defended his decision to rest captain Sergio Parisse as they look to make it two wins out of two in the Rugby World Cup against Canada.

The 36-year-old became only the third man to play in five World Cups when he led out the Azzurri in a straightforward 47-22 victory over Namibia in their Pool B opener on Sunday.

Parisse earned his 141st international cap to move within seven of the all-time record held by former New Zealand captain Richie McCaw but the Toulon forward will not get the chance to add to his tally on Thursday.

O'Shea has made wholesale changes, with only Jayden Hayward, Luca Bigi, Tommaso Allan, Tommaso Benvenuti and Braam Steyn keeping their places in the starting line-up and Dean Budd skippering the side.

With crunch fixtures against heavily fancied pair South Africa and New Zealand to come after Canada, O'Shea is taking no risks with one of his star assets.

The Limerick native said at a press conference: "It was a choice we made before the first match to balance out the teams over the two matches. We did it during the warm-up matches.

"I have confidence in all our players and all our players are worth a place in the team. This is the best team for the match.

"Dean has twice captained the team. Sergio wanted to play and that is the same for all the players. Two matches in four days meant we had to use all our squad.

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"He would be ready to play and was magnificent for us against Namibia but I want him at 100 per cent for every match."

O'Shea feels Italy lacked a clinical edge against Namibia, adding: "We wasted chances, but we created chances.

"It is in the past. It was the first match of the tournament and as (England coach) Eddie Jones said, 'just win it'."

O'Shea cited Canada wingers Jeff Hassler and DTH Van Der Merwe as "players with the 'X' factor, and they will cause us problems if we let them".

Italy's captain Sergio Parisse (centre)
Italy's captain Sergio Parisse (centre)

Ahead of Canada's first match of the tournament, coach Kingsley Jones said: "They made a few changes to their team, but what we can't do is get lost in ourselves and beat ourselves up.

"We've got to prepare well and, yes, we will try a couple of things like every team does against opposition of this level but, ultimately, it's about us playing to our best. I felt the team's grown with each training session.

"We've seen huge improvements in every department and we have just got to look forward at challenging ourselves against a very good Italian team and see where we're at."

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