Conor O’Shea is expected to unveiled as Italy coach at a press conference today, succeeding Jacques Brunel who stepped down after the Six Nations.
O’Shea, who was capped 35 times for Ireland at full-back between 1993-2000, is currently Harlequins’ director of rugby. He led them to the Aviva Premiership title in 2012 with an exciting brand of open, offloading rugby that revolutionised the league. In recent years his name has been linked with the England job without ever being offered it.
He was a short-priced favourite for the Italy post when he announced in January that he would be stepping down from the London club at the end of the current season.
He declined to confirm or deny the rumours because he had the remainder of the club season to get through.
O’Shea is believed to have persuaded former England World Cup winner Mike Catt to move to Italy as his assistant, alongside Stephen Aboud, another Irishman who is technical director of the IRFU and their longest serving coach.
The new coach will have his work cut out to make Italy competitive again. The Azzurri finished last in the recent Six Nations and, after pushing France all the way in Paris, they suffered three humiliating defeats, conceding 40 points to England, 58 to Ireland and a whopping 67 to Wales on the final weekend.