Rugby World Cup: Italy's Sergio Parisse facing testing time before getting crucial crack at Irish
Italy talisman Sergio Parisse must still pass two more fitness tests before being cleared for Sunday's vital World Cup clash with Ireland.
Captain and linchpin Parisse finally joined Italy's World Cup camp this week, and jumped straight into training yesterday.
The 32-year-old Stade Francais number eight remains confident his calf haematoma will clear in time for him to start Sunday's Olympic Stadium showdown.
Italy's bosses are taking no chances however, even though the Azzurri need a victory against Ireland to keep their slim quarter-final hopes alive.
"He hasn't been training for three weeks and will now be trying to play a massive match on Sunday," said Italy's team doctor Vincenzo Ieracitano.
"He's happy to be here and confident he will be able to play.
"He has been continuing the physiotherapy that he was undergoing in Paris.
"This afternoon he will have physiotherapy to get him over his journey from Paris, and then he will join in training in the gym and on the pitch.
"Tomorrow he will definitely train with the rest of the squad, then on Thursday he will go through a fitness test in the gym.
"And if that goes well we will see how he gets on in training and then we will have another check to see if he can play."
While Parisse is refusing to give up hope of being fit to face Ireland, Italy's vice captain is now a huge doubt for this weekend.
Hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini is expected to be available to face Romania on October 11, but may well not recover from hip trouble in time to take on Ireland.
Joe Schmidt's Ireland side can secure their place in the quarter-finals with victory this weekend, and would then target beating France to top Pool D.
"It is not likely that he will be back on Sunday but he is almost certain to be back for the match afterwards," said Ieracitano.
Ireland fully expect Parisse to start the Olympic Stadium battle, with hooker Sean Cronin preparing for "an even bigger threat" thanks to the presence of the classy number eight.
"He's absolutely huge for them," said Leinster hooker Cronin. "I'm sure he's going to give them a huge lift.
"You can see they raise the game with him in the side.
"So we know them very well, and with him on board we know they're going to be an even bigger threat.
"He's their go-to man in a lot of areas in their play.
"His kick-off return, his kick-chase and his dominance in the air, they are all aspects of a number eight's game that aren't usually to the level that he has.
"So he's massive in a lot of areas for them.
"The line-out he's great in, and attack.
"So he'll be huge for them and we're expecting him to play."