Emotions will run high in Rome
SIX NATIONS SPOTLIGHT: Italy captain Sergio Parisse warned the motivation was huge as he prepares to play what will likely be his final match at the Stadio Olimpico against France in the Six Nations on Saturday.
“There is a great chance that tomorrow will be my last match,” the 35-year-old No.8 told a press conference in Rome.
“But whether it’s my last match at the Olimpico or not, I don’t like to speak about my future and make plans. But at 35 years, it’s not the start, that’s for sure.
“What is important is the team and tomorrow maybe Italy can win.”
The Azzurri take on France looking to end their 22-match winless streak in the tournament going back to February 2015.
Les Bleus have just one victory in this year’s tournament against Scotland, losing to Wales, England and Ireland last time out in Dublin.
“My focus is on having a good performance and hunting for a victory that we strongly want,” said Parisse.
Argentina-born Parisse is the tournament record-holder cap with 68 games played, including 50 as captain, ahead of Irishman Brian O’Driscoll’s 65.
He earned his first cap against the All Blacks in June 2002, and has played 137 Tests since his debut.
The World Cup, from September 20 to November 2 in Japan, where his international career could come to end offers him a chance to close in on the world record of New Zealand’s Richie McCaw, with 148 caps.
But during his career the Italian skipper has only claimed 33 victories, and nine in the Six Nations.
Home hopes are based on the arrival of a beleaguered France which can allow Parisse, who has played for French club Stade Francais since 2005, to reach ten victories to bow out of the tournament and the Italian capital in style.
“France is a country that is part of me,” said the Stade Francais captain.
“I want to do the best for the team, we’re super motivated and want a great match, if we do that, I think we can win. We need to win,” he said.
France and Italy have played 40 times since 1937 with the French winning all but three meetings, losing twice in the Six Nations in 2011 and 2013.
Parisse was in the team that won in February 2013 (23-21) in Rome along with hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini who will also be playing his final game in the Stadio Olimpico this weekend.
“I think there will be a lot of emotion around this match because of all that Sergio has brought to the Italy team,” said France captain Guilhem Guirado.
“If we can gatecrash the party it will be even better,” added France centre Mathieu Bastareaud.