Monday 5 December 2016

O'Shea 'excited' by Italian challenge

Andrew Baldock

Published 26/03/2016 | 02:30

Conor O'Shea (Joe Giddens/PA Wire)
Conor O'Shea (Joe Giddens/PA Wire)

Former Ireland full-back Conor O'Shea has confirmed that he will become head coach of Italy.

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The current Harlequins director of rugby had been linked with the role for some time, and in January he had announced he would be leaving The Stoop at the end of the season. The 45-year-old Dubliner will succeed Frenchman Jacques Brunel, 62, in the Italy post.

O'Shea said he was "honoured, humbled and excited" to coach Italy, who lost all five of their matches in the recent Six Nations.

"I feel the end of this season is the right time for me to take on a new challenge," he added.

"I am honoured, humbled and excited that I will be working with everyone in Italian Rugby to ensure they can achieve on the undoubted potential they have as a rugby nation."

Mike Catt, who won the 2003 World Cup with England, has been named as attack coach three months after leaving the same post in the wake of England's disatrous 2015 World Cup campaign.

O'Shea - who won 35 Ireland caps between 1993 and 2000 - guided Harlequins to the 2012 Premiership title as well as the European Challenge Cup and the LV= Cup during his six-year stint.

Quins are currently sixth in the Premiership with five matches remaining, and will face London Irish, the club where O'Shea spent five years as a player, in the quarter-finals of the European Challenge Cup.

Brunel coached Italy in 50 Test matches after taking over following the 2011 World Cup.

In a statement posted on the Italian Federation (FIR) and Harlequins websites, O'Shea eed: "I spent many years in the 1990s playing against a great Italian side, and I know there is the ability within this current group of players. I will work with the FIR to ensure the current team can become the best Italian team in its history, but that's for another time."

Quins, winners of the Aviva Premiership title in 2012 under O'Shea's direction, say they will announce a new director of rugby "in due course," and will not make any comment until such time.

Stephen Aboud, currently the IRFUs head of technical direction, has also been appointed by the FIR as head of training from August 1.

FIR president Alfredo Gavazzi added: "The appointment of this new head coach, his assistant and the head of training is a crucial turning point for the Italian Rugby Federation.

"We have identified three of the highest-profile figures, three men who are in possession of what we believe are the most suitable qualities that can contribute to the development of our team.

"O'Shea is a coach with a record of success on the pitch and strong managerial skills, who will add extra value to all the various components of the Italian rugby set-up.

"We are excited to give Conor, Mike Catt and Stephen Aboud, who will play a crucial role in the development of Italian rugby, a warm welcome."

Sale Sharks have strengthened their forward resources by signing South Africa international lock Juandre Kruger and Australian prop Kieran Longbottom.

Kruger, capped 17 times for the Springboks, will move to Sale from this season's European Champions Cup quarter-finalists Racing 92. And Perth-born Longbottom, who is English-qualified through his late maternal grandmother, will leave Saracens to link up with the Sharks.

Kruger, 30, joined Racing in 2013 from the Pretoria-based Blue Bulls, while his earlier career included spending two seasons with Sale's fellow Aviva Premiership club Northampton.

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