Vunisa ready to take his chance

Date published: September 18 2015

Italy back-row Samuela Vunisa is relaxed about replacing the Azzurri's injured captain Sergio Parisse against France at Twickenham on Saturday.

The Fiji-born number eight knows he has big boots to fill as Parisse is a national hero in Italy, as well as the team's best player. 

Parisse will miss his country's World Cup opener after having a haematoma drained from his calf muscle and Italy coach Jacques Brunel opted to start with Vunisa in his place, with hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini taking over the captaincy. 

“Replacing a hero in the team is a really humbling moment,” said Vunisa. 

“Sergio has really helped me. When I first arrived he’s always been there in my first few games. 

“I went and worked with him and talked with him and the only thing he says it that we are two different players. 

"I am big and scary, he is more of a leader and his presence is always felt.”

There's a big contrast between the pair’s international experience. 

Vunisa will play in his ninth Test and also makes his Rugby World Cup debut while Parisse has won 113 Italy caps, 60 of them as captain and this will be his fourth World Cup. 

Vunisa knows that he will need to be his own man against les Bleus

“We are two different players offering something different,” added Vunisa. 

“As an islander I am known as a ball-carrier. It is always good to have go-forward so the backs can do their show and have their dance. For me to contribute to the team, I put my hands up and do it for the team."

Vunisa will have another Azzurri veteran alongside him in the back row, flanker Alessandro Zanni. 

“We (Vunisa and Zanni) are quite similar, we like the ball in hand," said the 27-year-old.

"He is a lone soldier who loves to do his work, but me and him together will work hand in hand.”