The Cheetahs have confirmed this afternoon that Franco Smith will take over as head coach of Italy after the 2019 World Cup.
Smith is currently the head coach of the Cheetahs and the club confirmed today that the 46-year-old will take up his new position on 1st January 2020.
Smith will continue his current role throughout the upcoming Currie Cup campaign and his replacement will only take charge ahead of the new Guinness PRO14 season.
The new head coach will work with Smith in a transition period until he takes up his new role as Italy head coach in the new year.
“Franco was offered the opportunity to coach the Italian national side from 1 January 2020,” the Cheetahs said in a statement.
“The Board of Directors see this as a great opportunity for Franco and is proud of the fact that so many top coaches have been developed by the Free State Cheetahs.
“Free State Rugby is seen as a breeding ground of opportunity with coaches like Rassie Erasmus, Niel Powell, Jacques Nienaber, Pote Human, Brendan Venter, Rory Duncan, Daan Human, who all started off in the Free State – and in the past, Nelie Smith, Gysie Pienaar and others.
“The Board of Directors is proud of and wishes Franco the best of luck with the opportunity to coach on an international level until the next world cup in 2023.”
The Italian Rugby Federation have yet to release a statement to confirm the appointment of Smith and how this impacts the role of Conor O’Shea.
O’Shea has been the head coach of Italy since 2016 but his role is often considered to be more akin to a Director of Rugby role whereby he has influence over broader aspects in Italian rugby.
It remains to be seen whether O’Shea will have a new role created for him by the Italian union or whether he will step away from the Italian rugby setup altogether.