Italian job looks most likely, but where next for Conor O'Shea?
After being at the helm since 2010, Conor O’Shea announced today he would leave Harlequins come season’s end, so where to next for the 45-year-old?
The former Ireland full-back has been universally lauded for his time as Director of Rugby at the Stoop so he’s likely to have plenty of suitors in the coming months, in both the domestic and international game.
Having been based in England since 1995, going back to his playing days with London Irish, the Limerick born O’Shea may well opt to stay close to home. However, the Italian national team have been courting him for some time, and there are those within the Irish game who may well have an offer for him.
Here we look at some of his potential options
Speaking to Sky Sports this morning O’Shea gave the impression that the Italian job would be right up his street. Chances to coach on the biggest stage of all don't come along all that often and O’Shea might fancy his chances of turning around the Azzurri’s fortunes.
Finding a replacement for Jacques Brunel, who was meant to depart after the Wold Cup, has not been easy for the Italian federation, so they’d be well served in acting now while O’Shea is still unattached.
Munster may have shown admirable spirit in turning over Stade Francais last weekend, but the fact remains that they have largely underperformed during Anthony Foley’s tenure.
Foley has yet to sign the one year contract extension he’s been offered and, with Andy Farrell already drafted in on a part-time consultant basis, he may not be in situ for the long term. What is clear is that the southern province would profit greatly from O’Shea’s experience and intellect, and his intimate knowledge of the Premiership, with a view to European contests, is another boon.
From O’Shea’s point of view, a successful stint at Munster would do his chances of taking the Ireland job down the line no harm.
The Terenure man is highly respected in the upper echelons of English rugby and has previously been in their employ. From 2005-08 he was the union’s Director of Regional Academies before departing for a post with the English Institute of Sport.
The RFU could well invite him back into the fold as they begin another World Cup cycle. Given his imitate knowledge of the various strata of the game in England, O’Shea could be offered a prominent position. Eddie Jones may even give him a call too.
The pundit’s chair
Already very popular for his musing on RTE Sport during the Six Nations and Autumn internationals, O’Shea could expect to command a pretty penny from either Sky or BT Sports. The media battlefield for European rugby is intensely competitive now, and the articulate 35-times capped international would be a major coup.
Joe Schmidt’s backroom team
The most improbable option on the list, but as Ireland seek to move on from yet another disappointing showing at the World Cup, Schmidt may seek fresh ideas and points of view to shake things up over the coming seasons.
Comparatively speaking, O’Shea is an idealist in how he believes the game should be played, though perhaps that’s precisely the ambition a transitional group like Ireland require. Replacing Leo Cullen at Leinster, who isn’t even a halfway through his two year term, feels like a non-runner, but not beyond the scope of reason.