sports gazette

Five players who carried their nation

Published: 23 Feb 2017

For the 14th time in his career, Sergio Parisse will look to lead Italy to their first ever victory over England.

In recognition of Sergio Parisse's outstanding contributions to the Italian side, Sports Gazette decided to take a look at five rugby players who carried their national teams through thick and thin. 

Sergio Parisse (Italy)

There's not much left to say about the man-mountain Parisse. Widely recognised as one of the best number 8s in world rugby over the past decade, Parisse has suffered the ignominy of winning just nine of his 55 Six Nations fixtures and seeing Italy dumped out of each Rugby World Cup at the group stage.

His 124 test caps rank him eighth all time among all countries, and at the age of 33 it's not unthinkable that he could rise up inside the top five or even top three.

A brilliant footballer, ferocious ball-carrier and magical off-loader, Parisse remains one of the best back-row forwards in the world. For all of Italy's struggles in years past, they have their talisman to thank for things not being worse.

Mamuka Gorgodze (Georgia)

Nicknamed 'Gordgodzilla', the herculean Georgian has been a staple of his national side since the 2003 Rugby World Cup. Despite moving positions from lock to back row, and moving teams from Montpellier to Toulon, Gorgodze remains an incredible icon for his country.

His 26 tries in 69 tests are a remarkable record for a forward, but it's his astonishing commitment in attack and defence that has made him a fan favourite across Europe and has propelled Georgia to the forefront of the current Six Nations debate.

Over the duration of his career, Georgia have progressed from winning their first Rugby World Cup match in 2007 to finishing third in their pool in 2015, guaranteeing qualification for the 2019 iteration in Japan and putting themselves in a position to be considered for the Six Nations.

Jonathan Davies (Wales)

The 1970s were a period of extraordinary success for Wales, as the likes of Gareth Edwards, J.P. Williams and Barry John helped them to unprecedented success, losing just seven times between 1969 and 1979.

If the 70s were the glory days, then the 80s would be a terrifying crash down to earth. They achieved just one win in the 1987 Five Nations and a disastrous tour of New Zealand in 1988 saw them humbled by the All Blacks, who scored at least 50 points in both tests.

Through this troubling period, it was the livewire Jonathan Davies who remained the bright spark of the Welsh side, scoring some dazzling tries before a fall-out with the WRU led to his cross-code conversion to rugby league. 

Serge Blanco (France)

It is a testament to the skill and verve of Serge Blanco that his country remains synonymous with attacking flair and end-to-end action on the rugby field.

Blanco was one of the most exciting players ever to grace a rugby pitch, regularly turning defence into attack with daring length-of-the-field moves including his famous attack from under his own posts at Twickenham that ended with Phillipe Saint-Andre scoring the try voted as the greatest Twickenham has ever seen. 

His 38 career tries remain a French record, 25 years after he retired, and he was instrumental as part of the team that won the Five Nations title six times, including two grand slams, between 1981 and 1991. An extraordinary talent at full back.

Hugo Porta (Argentina)

Perhaps no player has done as much to put his country on the map as Argentinian legend Hugo Porta. The silky-smooth fly half is his country's second-highest Test points scorer, but his contributions to his country extended so much further than goal-kicking and try-scoring.

Over the course of his 19-year career, Porta elevated Argentina from the minnows of world rugby, competing against unofficial South African, Romanian and Irish teams, to a respected top-tier test nation, playing Australia, England and New Zealand.

Porta would become a national icon in a country infatuated with football, incredibly winning the 1985 Argentine Sportsman of the Year award after his 21 points launched Argentina to a landmark draw with the All Blacks.

^ Back to top ^