Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Six Nations: Sergio Parisse explains why he plays for Italy not Argentina

Photo BBC
Argentine born and raised Sergio Parisse has been playing rugby for Italy for over a decade. Now capped more than one hundred times and still 30 the back-rower could very well overtake Brian O´Driscoll to become the most capped rugby player of all time. Why though has Parisse earned all his caps playing for Italy and not Argentina? He answered the question himself in an interview with Buenos Aires newspaper Diario Clarin

With 105 test caps to his name Sergio Parisse has played more test rugby than any other man from Argentina. He has done so in Italian colors and together with fellow Argentine-Italian, Martín Castrogiovanni he holds the record for the most test caps earned for Italy. Both were born in Argentina and started playing in the country. In the case of Parisse he is from La Plata, the same city which is to host the All Blacks for the third time in as many years in the 2014 Rugby Championship.

Parisse was selected by John Kirwan to play for Italy as a nineteen year old and there has been no looking back. Many Pumas supporters have been frustrated and the decision has been questioned by countless rugby supporters. Parisse´s choice, though was not only entirely within the eligibility laws but was also one which made sense to him personally. Parisse explained his choice “to the people who don´t know my story: my parents are Italian, both of them. They went to work in Argentina and my sister and I were born there, in La Plata. At home we always spoke Italian and had the customs. Because of this my decision to play for Italy was very simple.”

Set to turn 32 seven days before Italy takes on France at Twickenham in the Pool D match of Rugby World Cup 2015, Parisse has the talent and stamina to still be in the team well beyond the World Cup. It would not be a stretch of the imagination to suggest that Parisse could be playing at Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan. His consistency for Italy and Stade Français has seen him hold down a starting spot for both teams while the depth of Italian rugby requires that Parisse keep playing for as long as possible.

Brian O´Driscoll´s world record of 141 test match appearances could therefore last far less time than was the case of his predecessor, George Gregan who stopped playing test rugby in 2007. Gregan overtook English prop Jason Leonard who last played a test in 2004 and Parisse could, conceivingly overtake O´Driscoll in 2017 or 2018.

O´Driscoll retires from international rugby with 36 more test caps than Parisse. With Italy having six more test matches this year the Italian captain could finish the year with 111, the same number as the likes of George Smith, John Smit and Philippe Sella. Italy will play five tests in the 2015 Six Nations and likely then play two or three pre-World Cup matches in August. Should Parisse, as expected, feature in all these matches he would enter Rugby World Cup 2015 with perhaps 119 test caps - the same number as Jason Leonard.

In the event that Parisse avoids injury he could thus overtake O´Driscoll in 2017. Should he be involved in all four of Italy´s pool matches and play a possible Quarter Final and then play all eleven tests likely to be confirmed for 2017 then he will have the chance of having up to 136 caps by the end of 2016. In other words, Parisse could become the most capped player of all time in the 2017 Six Nations championship. Should it eventuate then he would be younger than O´Driscoll who is now 35 years old. Parisse will turn 35 in 2018. 

The only thing seemingly standing in the way of Parisse and the world record is Parisse. In his words he is nearing the end of his career and has two or three years remaining. 


  1. His father worked for air Italia and was based in Argentina in some kind of training role, I think.

    He was always going to play for the azurri, it was also his father's dream. It's a well known story!

    As for Castrogiovani ???

  2. If Parisse has the same luck and team like BOD at the end of his carreer, perhaps Italy could claimed Six Nations Champion by 2017-18 :D