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The 'quick word' tribute old mentor Franco Smith gave Sergio Parisse

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Craig Williamson/SNS Group via Getty Images)

Life came full circle for Sergio Parisse on Friday night in Dublin. When the veteran Challenge Cup winner with Toulon took his first steps in the game professionally over 20 years ago, the then-rookie teenager started out at Treviso where he had the company of Franco Smith at out-half to guide him through those formative early days.


At Aviva Stadium all these years later, an inspired Parisse lapped up the final European match of his stellar career by scoring an important early try in the swift breaking down of a lacklustre Glasgow side that was coached by Smith, the South African who switched into coaching in 2006 at the Cheetahs.

Post-game it was time for reflection on a career well spent and the opportunity to pay tribute to Parisse allowed Smith a momentary diversion away from the brickbats he had been getting regarding his Warriors team selection for a final in which they were outplayed to the tune of a wounding 43-19 scoreline.

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“He is not a young man anymore,” began Smith. “First of all, I am very proud to be involved with him and his debut season. I think it was 2002 for Benetton, he was a young, exciting guy full of skill like he is now.

“He was just a little more reckless with it I suppose, but he has earned it and challenged himself and looked so well as a professional after his body to come all the way he has.


“What a gentleman and we had a quick word after the game. He is an important rugby figure. He is a very important cog in the wheel of Toulon. He physically made a difference as did his organisation of the lineout.

“He, as a person, is a fantastic man. I always say good people make good players. He is a classic example of that, and he can be really proud he gave it his all at 39 years old.


“He wanted to say goodbye to rugby in the way he did it. The ovation he got was fantastic, but also to take away the win in the Challenge Cup final was really important. I am really happy for him.”


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