Sergio Parisse would be lauded as the world’s best number eight if he were an All Black, according to Italy lock Quintin Geldenhuys.
Linchpin number eight Parisse must still pass one final fitness test on Friday before being cleared to face Ireland in Sunday’s crucial World Cup clash at London’s Olympic Stadium.
The 32-year-old is still battling to beat the calf haematoma that ruled him out of Italy’s opening two matches, and second row Geldenhuys admitted the Azzurri need him to “run the show” against Ireland.
“I think he’s one of the best loose-forwards in the world,” Geldenhuys said.
“If he played for New Zealand he would certainly be viewed that way. Having him back would be a mental lift for everybody this weekend.
“It just always feels like something extra for the team when he’s there. Hopefully he can come through the fitness test tomorrow and we can have him playing at the weekend.
“When I came to Italy he was already on the scene, and he’s always had this aura about him. At training he will drop goals, he will throw cut-passes and behind-the-back off-loads, he’s got everything. It’s great to play with a guy like that.
“I’m pretty sure he could do a job for us at 12, he’s got that high a skill level. As the captain from No.8, he’s got an influence in the backs as well as the forwards.
“He can run the show from there, and that’s what we need from him at the moment.”
Saracens’ Fiji-born new recruit Samuela Vunisa would start at number eight should Stade Francais star Parisse fail Friday’s fitness test.
Italy are confident Parisse will feature at London’s Olympic Stadium on Sunday, but Geldenhuys admitted the Azzurri have spent all week laying contingency plans just in case the talismanic loose-forward misses out.
“The whole week we’ve worked around what to do if Sergio doesn’t make it back,” said Geldenhuys.
“So if he doesn’t make it we’ll be ready.
“Samuela’s a really physical player and he’s a powerful guy, so we’ll definitely use his power in breaking the line when the time’s right.
“He’s one of the youngsters coming through, he played great rugby at Zebre and Saracens wouldn’t have signed him unless he was top-quality.” South Africa-born Geldenhuys has won 59 caps since his 2009 debut for the Italians, but admitted few have carried more significance than this weekend’s World Cup battle.
Lose and Italy cannot qualify for the last eight, while victory would cement Ireland’s quarter-final spot with a game still to play in Pool D.
“We’ve got to treat this game as a final, for us to make the quarter-finals we’ve got to win,” said Geldenhuys.
“Lose and we go home, so we’ll give it our all for the result. We watched their games and the warm-up games too.
“They’ve played brilliant rugby but it’s against the so-called lesser teams. So maybe we can come out and spring a surprise against them.”
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