By Alan Dymock
When the news broke of Sergio Parisse’s apparent indiscretion, allegedly garbling some profanity at referee Laurent Cardona during Stade Francais’ defeat of Bordeaux-Begles in the Top 14, there was a need to say something. Anything.
The player himself took to Twitter, pumping out tweets in several different languages to say that his sending off in the 36th minute for swearing – in English according to the French press – was a misunderstanding. With his hearing with the league’s Disciplinary Committee (NRL) being brought forward to Wednesday afternoon for the sake of the Italian national side, it is hoped that such a misunderstanding can be “cleared without consequences”.
On the other side of Europe’s watery divide sits Shaun Edwards, though. With eyes on this Saturday’s clash with the Azzurri he has opted to bate Parisse, speaking out at a Wales press conference. “It’s no surprise he has been done for speaking to refs, it’s not something he hasn’t done before,” Edwards asserted.
After going on to explain that Parisse had been overheard on a referee’s microphones during last season’s championship, Edwards settled: “I’m sure they won’t play with 14 players. If he’s not picked they will pick somebody else in his place and we have to handle whoever plays number eight for Italy; Sergio Parisse or his back-up.”
Maverick tactics and 14-a-side aside, the people of Italy need Parisse. If only because he galvanises the squad, he is needed. If only because he can draw the best from his spirited pals, he is needed.
He is world class, of course, and really that trumps everything else.
Edwards knows that Parisse can hurt Wales. He also knows that with him the rest of the Italian breakaways, at the very least, are afforded that little bit more space and time. Alessandro Zanni, Simon Favaro and Paul Derbyshire could still do a job, but the Welsh backrow may want to kill off the contest as early as possible with no Parisse there. They may feel more equipped to win a war for 80 minutes, rather than picking their battles.
Of course, these are just words. Away from the wires, Italy want to win to avenge their hammering against Scotland and back up their victory against France, while Wales want to maintain momentum after their victory against France. If found guilty Parisse could be banned for between 40 and a year, both domestically and internationally.
On Thursday Italy will run through with their No 8 for Saturday. Whether or not it is Sergio Parisse will effect Wales as well as Italy and Edwards, alongside everyone else, knows this all too well.