Sergio Parisse will miss Italy's final World Cup game against Romania on Sunday
One of the biggest disappointments of the World Cup will be that Italy star Sergio Parisse managed just 64 minutes during the Azzurri’s Pool D campaign.
It’s no coincidence that Jacques Brunel’s side played their best rugby with their inspirational skipper leading them, narrowly going down 16-9 against Ireland last Sunday.
Parisse had returned to the team after missing the first two games of the tournament with a calf problem, and that hour took so much out of him that he has had to withdraw from Italy’s final game against Romania on Sunday.
It rounds off a rough World Cup for Italy and in particular their veteran players, with a generation of key players bidding a less than fond farewell to the tournament.
Parisse could yet make the next World Cup in Japan, he’ll be 36 in 2019, but the likes of Mauro Bergamasco and Andrea Masi have played their last games on the world’s biggest stage.
The flanker was left out of the matchday squad to face Romania, and while he did take part in a record-equalling fifth tournament, he probably hoped for more than two substitute appearances.
Masi’s tournament was even tougher, rupturing his Achilles tendon in the opening minutes of the first game against France. Now 34, it seems impossible that he will still be going in four years’ time, and his experience was sorely missed in a very green backline.
Martin Castrogiovanni is another to have left the tournament early, as he gets treatment for a tumour in his back, thankfully benign according to his doctors.
With Parisse missing, Italy will have to do something they’ve managed just three times in the last five years, and win a match without him.
The last time they managed it was in their difficult win over Canada earlier in the pool stages, while in 2012, they saw off the Canadians and the USA on a tour to North America.
Romania should provide a similar challenge, having just about seen off Canada in their pool meeting on Tuesday, but will have to deal with a quick turnaround.
That might be enough for Italy to avoid what would be a disastrous loss, condemning them to fourth place in the pool.
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Not only is qualification for the next tournament on the line, but calls for the inclusion of Georgia and Romania in the Six Nations will only increase if the Oaks pull off an upset.
With the likes of Parisse, Castro and Masi all missing, not to mention vice-captain Leonardo Ghiraldini, it will be up to the younger generation to prove that the future is bright for Italian rugby.