Ireland have a special plan to combat “magician” Sergio Parisse in Sunday’s vital World Cup clash against Italy, according to Conor Murray.
Fit-again linchpin Parisse will transform the Azzurri, the Stade Francais talisman finally over the calf haematoma he had to have drained.
Ireland captain Paul O’Connell believes Parisse “makes people around him believe”, and has warned his side not to underestimate the number eight’s influence at London’s Olympic Stadium.
“Yes we do look at them completely differently when he’s in their team,” said Murray, when asked if Ireland must adapt to cope with Parisse’s threat.
“We have to be very switched on to what he can do, but hopefully we know how to cover that.
“Individually and collectively he will galvanise them, he’s a world-class player and we’ve seen him over the last few years what a good player he is and the threats he brings.
“He’s an X-factor player, brings something out of nothing and can be a real magician for them.
“So he’s pretty important for them.”
Evergreen Munster lock O’Connell believes Parisse has the same kind of influence on Italy that Brian O’Driscoll used to exude over Ireland.
’He’s right up there with the best,“ said O’Connell.
“I’ve sat with him after plenty of games because I’ve been captain and he’s been captain. He is a little bit like a Johnny Sexton, or a Sean O’Brien, or Jamie Heaslip.
“I think he makes people believe around him because he believes himself so much.
“I suppose Brian O’Driscoll would have done that a lot for Ireland in the earlier days.
“We’ve looked at him a lot during the week, we guessed he was going to be back and was going to do everything he could to be back.
“He has everything. He catches high balls, he chases high balls, he chips, he can make turnovers on the ground, he intercepts, he’s a phenomenal carrier, if he has to go straight he has great footwork, he’s a brilliant passer, he pressurises the referee. He does it all.
“He’s right up with any of the great players who have played the game.”
Munster flyer Keith Earls has slotted from wing to centre for Sunday’s Italy clash, with club-mate Murray hailing the Limerick native’s resolve to fight back from a 29-month Test absence owing to a string of serious injuries.
Murray and Earls starred together in St Munchin’s College’s first XV, before progressing into the Munster set-up.
Scrum-half Murray said the depth of Earls’ talent was obvious from the outset.
“He likes to say he pretty much won us the senior cup at school,” said Murray of Earls.
“He’s a special talent and I think everyone in our group knows how lucky we are to have him.
“He’s had a tough run of injuries and it’s been pretty tough on him over the last couple of seasons, but it’s no surprise to me because I know him so well to see him playing like this, but it’s great to see him doing what he does on the world stage.
“In terms of his mental strength it’s incredible, that amount of time out of the game and watching those two Six Nations wins, that’s got to be tough on any player.
“And to have the mental strength and durability to bounce back, it’s a long time out of the game and a lot of lonely hours with the physio.
“He was obviously dreaming of this and he’s taken his chance incredibly well.”
Shaun Cronin, head sports reporter, breakingnews.ie speaking about the Ireland v Italy RWC pool match with Nick Purewal, PA Rugby Correspondent at the Ireland Rugby team Captain's run in the Olympic Stadium, UK. Video by Dan Linehan