Following the announcement of his planned retirement at the end of the season, legendary Italy captain Sergio Parisse has ranked the five toughest opponents he faced in Test rugby.
Last Friday, Parisse confirmed that he will be retiring from all rugby following the completion of the current European season, but admitted that he hopes to make one last Test appearance for the Azzurri.
The 38-year-old eighthman, who plays for Toulon in the French Top 14, told AFP that he felt it was time to call it quits because the physical demands of the game are taking strain on his body.
“Yes, it’s certain because you mustn’t push things too far, especially at the physical level because mentally, I feel very fresh,” he said.
“Everyone knows their body and knows what they are capable of doing. I knew I had the mental and physical strength to make a final season. It was also a discussion with the club.
“At 38, there are questions that arise. With the club, we all agreed that it was a good decision. Now it’s up to me to have fun with every game.”
Parisse went on to list the five toughest players he has played against, with two All Blacks and player each from Australia, England and France making the cut.
Interestingly, no Springbok ranked in his top five.
Parisse’s toughest opponents:
1. Richie McCaw (New Zealand)
“McCaw was an inspirational leader and a world-class operator.”
2. Jonny Wilkinson (England)
“He had something about him that made him different. It’s hard to explain.”
3. Kieran Read (New Zealand)
“I think Kieran Read was underrated compared to some of his teammates. Relentless.”
4. Thierry Dusautoir (France)
“Dusautoir has to be considered one of the greats. No matter what the occasion, he always brought the same intensity.”
5. David Pocock (Australia)
“Nobody tested me physically as much as Pocock. He was physically the perfect rugby player.”
Photo: Six Nations/Website