Osaka - When Italy's Sergio Parisse runs out against Namibia on Sunday, he will join a very select band to have played five Rugby World Cups and the talismanic No 8 is hoping 2019 will be the best yet.

When he first pulled on the Italy shirt, as an 18-year-old against New Zealand in 2002, he did not yet have the bald head that makes him immediately recognisable on the field but coach Conor O'Shea is in no doubt as to Parisse's place in the history of Italian rugby.

"It is difficult to put into words what Sergio brings to the team on and off the pitch," the Irishman told reporters ahead of the Namibia clash.

"The most important thing is his ability and he is probably the best Italian rugby player of all time," added O'Shea.

Most observers believe that Parisse would easily earn a place in more celebrated teams than Italy, for whom he has won a staggering 140 caps, including a record 66 in the Six Nations.

His 141st cap will put him equal with Irish legend Brian O'Driscoll and behind only All Black flanker Richie McCaw, the last man to lift the Webb Ellis Cup.

And his fifth World Cup will put him alongside countryman Mauro Bergamasco and Samoan legend Brian Lima.

But, as the consummate professional, Parisse is thinking only of the task ahead of him: the Pool B clash with Namibia at the Hanazono Stadium on Sunday.

"I'm proud, but I haven't been thinking about this being my fifth World Cup. Honestly, I'm taking it a day and a training session at a time," said Parisse, now 36 and playing his club rugby for Toulon.

"The fifth hasn't started and I hope it will be my best."

Italy have a mountain to climb if they are to realise their dream of making the knock-out stages of a World Cup for the first time, drawn in the same pool as title contenders New Zealand and South Africa.

Hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini told AFP that Parisse was "a superb player, even if he is really old!"

"On the pitch, his experience and quality are incredible. But he plays a big role also off the pitch - players like him are essential for a team," added Ghiraldini.

He sets the example both at the training ground and in the gym. "You cannot get to a fifth World Cup without that sort of attitude," said the hooker, himself approaching the twilight of his career at 34.

And O'Shea is not ruling out a ground-breaking sixth World Cup for the Argentina-born legend, who would then be 40 years ago.

"He says it is his last but I'm not sure. He will want to fight for another World Cup. I hope there will be another World Cup for Sergio," said the coach with a grin.

Teams:

Namibia

15 Johan Tromp, 14 Chad Plato, 13 Justin Newman, 12 Darryl De La Harpe, 11 JC Greyling, 10 Cliven Loubser, 9 Damian Stevens, 8 Janco Venter, 7 Wian Conradie, 6 Rohan Kitshoff, 5 Tjiuee Uanivi (captain), 4 PJ Van Lill, 3 Johannes Coetzee, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 Andre Rademeyer

Substitutes: 16 Louis van der Westhuizen, 17 AJ De Klerk, 18 Nelius Theron, 19 Johan Retief, 20 Max Katjijeko, 21 Eugene Jantjies, 22 Helarius Axasman Kisting, 23 Lesley Klim

Italy

15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Mattia Bellini, 13 Tommaso Benvenuti, 12 Luca Morisi, 11 Edoardo Padovani, 10 Tommaso Allan, 9 Tito Tebaldi, 8 Sergio Parisse (captain), 7 Maxime Mbanda, 6 Braam Steyn, 5 Federico Ruzza, 4 Alessandro Zanni, 3 Tiziano Pasquali, 2 Luca Bigi, 1 Nicola Quaglio

Substitutes: 16 Oliviero Fabiani, 17 Simone Ferrari, 18 Marco Riccioni, 19 Dean Budd, 20 Jake Polledri, 21 Guglielmo Palazzani, 22 Carlo Canna, 23 Matteo Minozzi