Rugby World Cup: Sergio Parisse is needed to inject some momentum as Italy prepare for Ireland
When Jacques Brunel was appointed Italy coach in 2011, he was expected to bring a renewed sense of belief to a sport that has always played second fiddle to soccer.
It was the beginning of a World Cup cycle, which gave the former French assistant coach ample opportunity to develop and prepare his squad for this tournament.
Four years on and two games into the World Cup, it's difficult to see what improvements he has made to a squad that is bereft of quality.
Granted Sergio Parisse's absence would be felt by most teams in the competition let alone one that is already short on world-class players but the fact remains that Italy have been over-reliant on their talismanic skipper for years.
Italy have struggled in their opening two games and although they managed to eke out a win against Canada at the weekend, they were rudderless and unimpressive.
Having undergone surgery on his leg earlier this month, Parisse has since been recuperating in Paris, presumably under the watch of Stade Francais. He linked up with the Italy squad yesterday, but it remains to be seen if he will be fit to return against Ireland on Sunday.
In the immediate aftermath to Ireland's win over Romania, the focus switched to Italy and Joe Schmidt and several of his players insisted that Parisse will 'galvanise' his side.
"If we play the same as we did today then we will go 30 points down against Ireland, we know that. If we don't have precision it will not be a contest," Brunel warned after Saturday's poor display.
Italy recently dropped to 15th in the rankings (yesterday they climbed one place to 14th), which is their worst ever position.