Now entering his third Six Nations campaign with Italy, Conor O’Shea will hope he can finally record a win in ‘Rugby’s Greatest Championship’.
Their most recent outing in this tournament was probably their best opportunity to do that, a heartbreaking 27-29 loss to Scotland at the Stadio Olimpico in the last round of the 2018 edition.
The Scots are Italy’s first opponents this time around, except they will have to deal with the pressure that comes with playing in front of a sold-out Murrayfield.
For O’Shea, his remit as head coach of the Italian team goes beyond what you would expect. He has big influence on the structures of the game in the country, including the improving fortunes of both professional clubs, Benetton and Zebre.
However, such is the cut and throat nature of international rugby, he will be judged solely on results and he will hope his side can have a better year than 2018.
“We haven’t beaten teams at the highest level,” O’Shea said at this week’s official Six Nations launch in London.
“We’ve had some very competitive games, Scotland in the Six Nations last year, we played some fantastic rugby. Australia in November where I thought we played some of our best rugby but without the result, without the energy and the fusion.”
A big emphasis for O’Shea is intensity and it’s a word he used frequently throughout his press conference. It seems that the Limerick-born coach is putting a greater emphasis on intensity in training so to prepare his players better for what could occur on matchday.
“We sat down with the franchises in November. We’ve done a lot of work and a lot of research. We talked about how we train in both franchises with the national side. We discussed whether it would be change now a little bit so we can start the next phase of our growth now or wait until June.
“We said ‘let’s just go for it’. So training in a different way, putting more pressure and stress and intensity on the people every day that they train. Make your light days light and your heavy days heavy. So when you’re under duress in matches, you’re able to react and execute at this level.”
Although there is so much to consider; a World Cup at the end of the year, his future with Italy, the structures of the game in the country from the top to the very bottom; O’Shea is focussed on one thing – Scotland in Murrayfield next Saturday.
“So, I talk journeys but our only focus at the moment is delivering a massively intense performance, execute properly against Scotland and see where that takes us.
“We’re not stupid, we know the scale of the challenge. So for us to talk about wins and losses, we prepare to win, we want to win, we’re competitive people but we want to deliver our best and then we’ll see.”