SAN BENEDETTO DEL TRONTO, Italy (AFP) – Captain Sergio Parisse touched down on his return as Italy ran in 13 tries for a 85-15 victory over Russia in their second Rugby World Cup warm-up clash in San Benedetto del Tronto last Saturday.
The veteran Azzurri skipper did not feature in the 29-10 defeat to Ireland, but came into the side as one of 14 changes, as Italy prepare for the tournament in Japan in just over a month’s time.
The 35-year-old, who earned his 139th international cap, slotted down the second try as the Italians ran in five in the first half adding a further eight after the break to inflict a record defeat on the Russians.
The Argentina-born number eight joins Australian George Gregan as the third most capped international, behind New Zealand’s Richie McCaw, 148, and Ireland’s Brian O’Driscoll, 141.
“Russia are a respectable rival, even if objectively we’re at another level,” said Parisse.
“In any case, ending our game with more than 80 points is a performance that we will certainly remember.”
Italy coach Conor O’Shea experimented a day ahead of making his final 31-man World Cup squad selection.
Matteo Minozzi, the only player to keep his starting place from the Ireland game, scored a hat-trick of tries with Mattia Bellini and Edoardo Padovani getting two apiece.
Benetton fly-half Tommaso Allan accounted for 17 points for his side with six conversions and a second-half try.
“Today’s was an important test where we experimented, just as we will with France and England,” said the Irishman.
“The choice of players to take to Japan is very tough. Ours is a nice group made up of many youngsters.
“Whoever is not called up, however, knows that he will have to remain available during the World Cup in case of injuries.
“We are on the right track, I love to repeat that our goal is not the Six Nations or the summer tour, but the World Cup.
“We have a dream and we believe in it, however difficult it may be.”
Russia had shown early promise with Ramil Gaisin’s penalty goal getting the 20th-ranked visitors off the mark first after four minutes on Italy’s Adriatic coast.
But Gloucester flanker Jake Polledri burst through four minutes later to set up Luca Morisi for Italy’s first try with Allan converting.
Eight minutes later man-of-the-match Polledri again found a way through for Parisse with another Allan conversion, giving the hosts a 14-3 lead.
Kirill Golosnitskiy took advantage of an Azzurri lapse on 18 minutes to keep Russia in touch with a try for 14-8.
But Mattia Bellini’s two quick-fire tries on 25 and 28 minutes powered the Italians ahead with Minozzi adding a fifth just before the break.
Jayden Hayward (41), Allan (42) and Simone Ferrari(48) added three more after the break before Parisse came off handing the captain’s armband to Alessandro Zanni.
“He (Zanni) is a lifelong friend, this game at home was probably my last and his,” said Parisse, “so we said ‘let’s enjoy this moment’ before taking to the pitch.”
Replacement Edoardo Padovani added two more on 57 and 67 minutes, along with Carlo Canna before the final whistle just after Bogdan Fedotko got a second try for Russia with Yury Kushnarev converting.
Italy play France on August 30 and England the following Friday in pre-tournament warm-ups, before facing defending champions New Zealand, South Africa, Namibia and Canada in their World Cup group.
Lyn Jones’ Russia face hosts Japan before playing Samoa, Ireland and Scotland in their pool.