Murray Kinsella reports from London
CONOR O’SHEA SAYS speculation that he could be replaced as Italy head coach after this year’s World Cup hasn’t been a distraction.
Reports in the French media suggested that the Italian Rugby Federation [FIR] was lining up Racing 92 coaching duo Laurent Travers and Laurent Labit to take over from O’Shea.
O’Shea’s contracts extends through until after the 2020 Six Nations. Source: Giuseppe Fama/INPHO
However, the Irishman is contracted with Italy through until after the 2020 Six Nations and FIR president Alfredo Gavazzi yesterday underlined the federation’s “maximum support” for O’Shea in a Twitter post.
O’Shea, speaking at the Six Nations launch in London today, said he hasn’t been bothered by the recent speculation and stated that he actually hoped the FIR was looking for alternatives to him as head coach.
“It’s what you expect,” said O’Shea, who is preparing Italy to face Scotland on 2 February. “I spoke to the president and we’re not in this for me, we’re in this for Italian rugby. There are a lot of things that go on.
“Do they want me to stay on? Yes.
“Would I expect them to be looking at alternatives? They say they’re not but I hope they are because if they’re not, they’ll be slammed for not looking at alternatives.
“Frankly, the only concern I have is playing Scotland. I can’t wait to lead this team into the Six Nations, the World Cup and beyond. It will be a decision for me, my family, the federation and it’s not about me. It’s about Italian rugby.
“All I said to the president was, ‘The next decision has to be the right thing.’ If that means new energy, if my energy isn’t there, because players will know when I’ve lost my energy.
“I remember a phone call with Sergio [Parisse] after last year’s Six Nations and he said, ‘Please don’t lose your energy’ and he’ll know it if I do.
“That talk is part and parcel of the game, doesn’t bother me.”
Sergio Parisse says this may be his final Six Nations. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO
Italy have not won a Six Nations game since 2015, when they shocked Scotland at Murrayfield, but O’Shea is certain improvements are being made within Italian rugby.
With Benetton and Zebre improving in the Pro14 and young talent coming through, O’Shea is optimistic about the future. The win over Georgia in November was an important achievement for his Italy squad.
One man who won’t be around too much longer is fit-again 35-year-old captain, Parisse, who said this could be his final Six Nations.
“Personally, I’ve come from 2018 and that was a really, really bad year in terms of injury and surgery and not playing good rugby – rugby that is not acceptable for my level,” said Parisse in London.
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“But it is what it is, part of the career of a professional rugby player. I have a lot of energy now and I want to play rugby with my club [Stade Français] and the national team.
“Maybe it’s my last Six Nations, I don’t know, but I don’t like to talk about the next World Cup or the next thing. I want to live in the moment and I’m happy to be working with the boys, it was difficult to miss the November Tests.
“It’s important for me to play well. I know I can bring experience and leadership, but it’s important to perform well on the field.”
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