Goosen: Italy must hold on to O'Shea to continue to make progress
Italy must do everything possible to retain the services of head coach Conor O'Shea after the Rugby World Cup, according to his defence coach Marius Goosen.
The former Ireland full-back has been in Italian rugby's top job since 2016, but he is regarded as one of the game's top coaches and administrators, with several clubs and associations keen to avail of his services.
O'Shea's Italy provide the first opponents for Ireland this Saturday as both sides launch their preparations for the World Cup in Japan next month and Goosen thinks O'Shea, who is contracted to the end of the 2019/'20 season, is the keystone of the game in Italy and the man to drive their progress.
"He's brilliant; he's a legend; he's just easy to work with," said Goosen, who also coached Benetton Rugby to last season's PRO14 quarter-final.
"I hope they will keep hold of him. It's massively important. The whole coaching structure has been changed every four years in Italian rugby and that doesn't help," added the South African.
"You can understand why they do it, but the continuity of this playing group and coaching group with Conor leading it into the next four years is massively important for results, but also for the whole system."
Daunting The Italian squad is based in University of Limerick this week where O'Shea's 38-man squad is preparing for the clash at Aviva Stadium this weekend.
They will play in Pool B in the World Cup, but face the daunting task of playing New Zealand and South Africa in their final two games after the first taking on Namibia and Canada.
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Italy have never qualified from their pool at the World Cup, and Goosen says that correcting that is their number one priority.
But he also believes that Ireland are in with a huge shout of being world champions at the end of the tournament, despite never having managed to get past the quarter-final stage.
"Ireland are a top side. I think they've proven over the years that they have got a pool of players, maybe 50 players, that can slot in any day. They've incredible depth.
"I think they will back themselves to win the World Cup. But at that level there are so many teams at the same level so you need a bit of luck as well. I give them a pretty fair chance of going all the way, as I do with England, Wales, South Africa and New Zealand.
"They wouldn't even think about a quarter-final, they will think about getting to the semis and then anything can happen. They are a top three side in the world."