Italy great Parisse to retire from rugby at end of season

·2-min read
Exit stage left: Sergio Parisse is calling time on his playing career at the end of the season (AFP/Adrian DENNIS)

Italy great Sergio Parisse confirmed Friday that he will be retiring from all rugby at the end of the current season but still hopes to make a final international appearance.

The Toulon number eight, who turns 38 on Sunday, told AFP that it was time to call a halt to his playing career.

"Yes, it's certain because you musn't push things too far, especially at the physical level because mentally, I feel very fresh," he said ahead of Sunday's Top 14 match against Toulouse.

"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 was primed to retire from international rugby after the 2019 World Cup but changed his decision when Italy's final group game against New Zealand was cancelled because of Super Typhoon Hagibis, a decision that Parisse at the time described as "ridiculous".

He has not added to his 142 caps since then but a farewell Test appearance, slated against England in the 2020 Six Nations, was also called off, this time because of the cornavirus pandemic.

Parisse made his debut for Italy aged 18 in 2002 and became its totem right up until the 2019 World Cup. Only Wales and British and Irish Lions captain Alun Wyn Jones (160) and former New Zealand captain Richie McCaw (148) have played more international rugby.

"Yes, it would be a nice ending to be able to play again in front of the Italian public but it is not an obsession," he said.

"I am in contact with the new president and the new coach. There is also a desire on the part of the Italian leadership to give me the chance to make one last match.

"But I never liked, in my professional career, to have gifts. I could have continued with Italy and had 150 caps instead of 142 but it is not what I want. Records don't interest me."

Parisse is already a quasi-coach of the line-outs at Toulon and is working with the academy players at the club but the Argentina-born back-rower is taking nothing for granted.

"I have a year's contract as a player here. From experience, though, you shouldn't look too far ahead," said Parisse who joined Toulon in 2019 after 15 years at Stade Francais.

"I mentioned my wish to coach. I'm starting my diploma. I want to improve, learn and why not, one day, train here in Toulon?

"But it's important for me to finish my last season as I always dreamed of doing, playing at my best level."

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