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Rugby World Cup: O'Connell and Toner wary of Italian superstar Parisse

By Nick Purewal

Ireland fear Sergio Parisse could "change the dynamic" of their pivotal World Cup battle with Italy.

Italy hope captain and lynchpin Parisse will finally recover from a calf haematoma to make his bow at this World Cup against Ireland at London's Olympic Stadium next weekend.

Ireland will secure quarter-final qualification with victory over Italy on Sunday, and would then target beating France to top Pool D and tee up a likely last-eight meeting with Argentina.

Lock Devin Toner expects Parisse's presence to alter the complexion of the Italy clash, with captain Paul O'Connell warning his team of the Stade Francais star's qualities.

"Parisse would definitely change the dynamic," said Toner.

"He controls the lineout, he owns it, he calls it, so he's a real threat if he does play. But he's the talisman, he spurs everything good about Italy.

"So if he does play it would be a coup for them. You never want to see players injured of course.

"I'm sure the neutrals want to see him play but I don't know if we do, to be honest."

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Ireland eased past Romania 44-10 at Wembley yesterday, racking up six tries to move top of Pool D with two bonus-point victories now under their belts.

Leinster lock Toner produced a strong showing in response to being dropped for the 50-7 victory over Canada, putting pressure on boss Joe Schmidt on the selection front for Italy.

O'Connell stepped off the bench for the final quarter, and will approach the Italy clash with caution.

"There's a bit of a mind-shift now over the next two weeks, playing two Six Nations teams and two teams who know us very well," said O'Connell.

"We know them very well too and we've had very close games with France in the last two years and have been lucky enough to beat them. With Italy in Rome we beat them too.

"They're two massive games. Parisse makes a massive difference, he's a world-class player. A lot of their defensive and attacking lineouts run around him.

"He can produce something different, that teams in the last two weeks haven't had. So we've got to be ready for that."

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