Conor O’Shea’s future as the Italian head coach has been thrown into jeopardy following reports that the Italian Rugby Federation (FIR) made an approach to Franco Smith, head coach of the Toyota Cheetahs.
O’Shea’s current contract is set to run until the end of next year’s Six Nations campaign, however, the Guinness PRO 14 outfit confirmed via Twitter that Smith has been offered the role from New Years Day 2020 a month before the tournament begins.
The Management of the Free State Cheetahs (Pty) Ltd is aware of the offer made to the Franco Smith, to coach the Italian National side as from 1 Jan 2020.
Management wish to assure stakeholders, supporters that the coaching structures will be structured to ensure success. pic.twitter.com/B8ygJ1gTrh
— Toyota Cheetahs (@CheetahsRugby) April 13, 2019
The Limerick man was appointed Italian head coach in 2016 after successful spells with London Irish and Harlequins. However, in a previous interview stated that there would be no hard feelings if the FIR were to look at other options.
“It’s what you expect because we’re in this for Italian Rugby,”
“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. If they weren’t, they would be slammed for not looking at alternatives”
O’Shea’s tenure in charge of Italy has seen mixed results. He led the country to their first ever victory over South Africa in 2016 but has struggled hugely in the Six Nations. Finishing bottom each year receiving a solitary losers bonus point in this year’s campaign following a final round game with France that they ought to have won.
However, O’Shea has made a significant contribution to the club game in Italy (in a similar manner to Joe Schmidt and Ireland) as seen by Benetton’s improved form in 2019 and it is thought that there could still be a role for him within the association.