Fury and tears after Italy’s campaign is cut short
There was anger and emotion in the Italian camp following the cancellation of their match against New Zealand.
While Sergio Parisse railed against what he saw as double standards from World Rugby in preventing them from trying to upset the odds and reach the quarter-finals, hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini was left in tears by being denied a cameo in what would have been his final match.
Ghiraldini ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament at the end of March, putting his appearance in a fourth World Cup in serious jeopardy.
Remarkably, the 34-year-old recovered to be named in the squad but has not played a minute in Japan, saved for the final match by head coach Conor O’shea, who planned to give him 20 minutes and the chance to say goodbye in what would have been his 105th Test.
“You are very emotional, especially for Leonardo Ghiraldini, who missed his last chance to play in an Italy jersey,” said O’shea yesterday. “To hear that your international career is finished after training is tough to take.
“I’m finding it really difficult. I saw the players’ reaction after training and it was horrible, because these guys have given their lives to Italian rugby and their World Cup has ended on the training pitch, when it should be on the playing field.”
Parisse’s retirement from Test rugby is yet to be confirmed but he has hinted as much this year and Italy’s back row has looked stronger without him. This is far from a fitting farewell for the 36-year-old No 8 playing in his fifth World Cup, just the third player to reach that milestone.
Italy could have reached the last eight with an improbable bonus-point win, but this has been another disappointing campaign, with speculation that O’shea could be replaced.
“Clearly, everyone is down because we wanted to have the chance to play against New Zealand. I’m disappointed for the players, the staff and the fans,” O’shea said.
“I’m sure it was a hard decision for World Rugby. All the other teams whose matches have been cancelled are already through and we were the only ones who had a chance to qualify.
“We wanted to show our best against New Zealand.
‘‘There are things on the field and off it for the coaching team and federation to decide the direction they take.”
Denied: Leonardo Ghiraldini misses winning a final cap in his 105th Test