Parisse expects tough clash

Date published: February 10 2017

Italy number eight Sergio Parisse admits it is going to be “extremely difficult” for his side to beat Ireland at the Stadio Olimpico on Saturday.

The Azzurri suffered a 33-7 loss to Wales in their Six Nations opener and things don’t get any easier as a wounded Ireland arrive in Rome.

Parisse is keen to repeat the heroics they showed against South Africa in November but knows they need a “miracle” if they are to prevail.

“Beating South Africa with the system we have in the country at the moment was a miracle, but it was possible because of the commitment of the players and the staff who believe in us,” the captain told Press Association Sport.

“Personally I think Ireland are better than Wales, so it’s going to be extremely difficult tomorrow.”

Parisse revealed there is a long-term plan to make Italy a force to be reckoned with under new head coach Conor O’Shea, who is looking to build their revival on solid foundations from their club sides in the PRO12.

“Conor’s most important challenge is to change our mentality,” said Parisse.

“Zebre and Treviso play in a very negative environment, losing often. The attitude changes when you have criticism every week and no wins. It’s human nature that you start believing you’re not good enough.

“It’s difficult to expect a winning mentality from those players but Conor is so positive. He has put in place an extremely professional environment with the national team, and we must try to pass this system onto Zebre and Treviso. It’s not easy, but that’s the point.”

He continued on this weekend’s challenge in Rome: “Ireland are the only team in the Six Nations which is extremely adaptable depending on the opponent.

“Joe Schmidt is such a clever coach and always finding new ways to establish good attacking platforms depending on the opponent, especially from first, second and third phase.

“We know Ireland will want to keep the ball in play and try to score more than four tries. We know the size of the challenge.”