Conor O’Shea to stay with Italy until after Six Nations at least

Reports had suggested Italy coach would be replaced after World Cup later this year

  Conor O’Shea: “I will be continuing with Italy after the World Cup.”

Conor O’Shea: “I will be continuing with Italy after the World Cup.”

 

Reports suggesting that Conor O’Shea will be replaced as Italian head coach in January next year are premature, with the former Irish fullback set to continue with the Azzurri at least until the completion of next year’s Six Nations and possibly beyond.

A statement by the Toyota Cheetahs in South Africa yesterday stated that the former Treviso coach, Franco Smith, would be coaching with the Italian national side from January 1st, which has been interpreted as meaning he would be replacing O’Shea as Azzurri head coach from January 1st, 2020.

However, this is not the case.

Speaking to The Irish Times, O’Shea said: “I am currently working with the Italian Federation with a view to supplementing and adding to our coaching team after the World Cup, and until such time as something is finalised neither myself nor the Italian Federation are in a position to make any further comment.

“When we have something finalised we will make a statement, but I will be continuing with Italy after the World Cup,” added O’Shea, who is contracted until the end of next season.

Furthermore, the Italian Federation has issued the following statement: “The Italian Rugby Federation (FIR), following today’s unexpected Free State Cheetahs press release, clarifies that no recruitment process for the National Team Head Coach position is in place.

 “FIR also informs that interviews and negotiations are currently underway with international level coaches in order to integrate and strengthen the National Men’s Team coaching party.”

In its statement, the directors of the Free State Cheetahs stated: “Franco was offered the opportunity to coach the Italian national side from 1 January 2020.  The Board of Directors see this as a great opportunity for Franco… and wishes Franco the best of luck with the opportunity to coach on an international level until the next world cup in 2023.”

In its statement, the directors of the Free State Cheetahs stated: “Franco was offered the opportunity to coach the Italian national side from 1 January 2020. The board of directors see this as a great opportunity for Franco and is proud of the fact that so many top coaches have been developed by the Free State Cheetahs.”

Their statement added: “The board of directors is proud of and wishes Franco the best of luck with the opportunity to coach on an international level until the next World Cup in 2023.”

O’Shea, who won 35 caps for Ireland between 1993 and 2000 and also played for Leinster and London Irish, became Irish’s Director of Rugby in 2001 before joining the RFU in 2005 as their Director of Regional Academies.

In 2008, he joined the English Institute of Sport as national director but was appointed director of rugby at Harlequins the following year, going on to guide the club to the Challenge Cup in 2011 and a Premiership title in 2012 before becoming Italian head coach in 2016.

Italy have named a 39-man training squad including Ian McKinley to convene next month ahead of the World Cup, and their first warm-up game is against Ireland at the Aviva Stadium on August 10th. O’Shea will be in Dublin this evening for the Rugby Players Ireland annual awards gala, when he will be inducted into their Hall of Fame.

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