Italy plays better without Parisse: Ledesma

by Sam Phillips

Italy captain Francesco Minto is having none of Mario Ledesma's claim that Italy play better without star No. 8 Sergio Parisse.

Parisse is undoubtedly one of the best No. 8's in world rugby but the Wallabies scrum coach believes there is a sense of Ewing theory at hand when the Italians play without him.

That theory - brought into vogue by American sports journalist Bill Simmons - was coined when the New York Knicks of the mid-1990s seemingly played better without star Patrick Ewing than they did with him.

"He's one of the best No. 8's but I actually think they play better without him," Ledesma said on Friday.

"When he plays it is all about him.Mario Ledesma didn't pull any punches today. Photo: Walmsley"He takes everything, he's pushing the 10 to get the ball, all the lineout calls are around him, all the scrum calls are around him.

"So I think for them, it's a really good chance to express themselves.

"That's not taking anything away from Sergio, I know him well - he's Argentinian by the way - he's an excellent player but I think as a team they play better without him."

Parisse has been left at home to rest after a long Northern Hemisphere season.Parisse has starred for Italy for 15 years. Photo: Getty ImagesThat has provided opportunity for a new crop of talent to make their mark and coach Conor O'Shea has emphasised the importance of getting games into this young group.

Despite that, new Italian captain Francesco Minto wasn't buying into Ledesma's comments.

"Sergio is such an amazing, all-round player - he could even play in the backs," Minto said through a translator.

"The positive thing is that we have so many young guys in this squad that plan to prove themselves and prove to the coach that they deserve to be here.

"Sergio has a very strong personality in the change rooms but Conor (O'Shea) is giving good time to the younger boys in the squad and hopefully we will see vindication on the field tomorrow."

The Wallabies take on Italy on Saturday, kicking off at 3pm AEST LIVE on FOX SPORTS and via RADIO. Buy tickets here