Italy regain one captain but are likely to lose another

Sergio Parisse back in contention but Leonardo Ghraldini faces race against time to face Ireland

Parisse was a very welcome arrival at Italy’s hotel on Tuesday, when after a wait of over two weeks the team's Illustrious long-time captain finally joined up with Jacques Brunel’s squad. 

While Italy played France and Canada, the 32-year-old number eight was back home in Paris recuperating and then training under the auspices of his club side, Stade Francais, following surgery earlier in September. On Monday he was finally given the all-clear to join up with the Azzurri, and less than 24 hours later he jumped on Eurostar to whizz to London. 

However, there was less good news for Leonardo Ghiraldini, the man who has led the team in Parisse’s absence but who limped off midway through the second half of Italy’s 23-18 win over Canada at Elland Road in Leeds on Saturday. 

“He (Ghiraldini) suffered a slight pull of the hip flexor in his right leg,” Italy doctor Vincenzo Ieracitano said. “The cryotherapy treatment has helped a lot with his recovery and we will check on him again on Thursday. 


“It is not likely that he will be back on Sunday (when Italy play Ireland), but he is almost certain to be back for the match after (versus Romania, 11 October).”

The return of Parisse, pictured in February's  26-3 Six Nations home defeat by the Irish, has been longed for since he underwent therapy to reduce a hematoma on his right leg following Italy’s pre-World Cup match against Wales in Cardiff. He has been regularly updating fans of his improving condition via social media and is now ready to lead his team out against Ireland at the Olympic stadium on Sunday. 

It is a match that echoes the Azzurri’s final group match from New Zealand 2011 when they faced Ireland in Dunedin needing a win to reach the quarter-finals. In the end they returned home the next day after a 36-6 defeat.

“Sergio hasn’t been training for three weeks and will now be trying to play a massive match on Sunday. He’s happy to be here and confident he will be able to play,” Ieracitano added. 

“He has been continuing the physiotherapy that he was undergoing in Paris. This afternoon he will have physiotherapy to get him over his journey from Paris, and then he will join in training in the gym and on the pitch. 


“Tomorrow he will definitely train with the rest of the squad, then on Thursday he will go through a fitness test in the gym and if that goes well, we will see how he gets on in training and then we will have another check to see if he can play.”

Parisse arrived at Italy’s training centre midway through a light training session. He chatted with the players and staff, but otherwise kept a low profile. 

“It is great to see him, because we all knew how much he must have been suffering at home,” second-row Valerio Bernabo said. 

“I’m sure it was great for him to spend time with his wife but I can’t begin to imagine how difficult it must have been for him sitting on the sofa watching the television, so it must be great for him to be back among the squad especially as he personifies the team.”