Despite the fact that Italy have begun this Six Nations campaign, as expected, with no points from two games, Ireland coach Joe Schmidt is looking at the bigger picture.
Conor O’Shea was looking for a response following an opening weekend defeat to Wales, but could only look on as the Azzurri fell to pieces in a 63-10 defeat to Ireland on Saturday.
Nonetheless, Schmidt believes that O’Shea’s project at Italy is a long-term one – and the national side will reap the benefits in the end.
“To coin a phrase, ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’. I think he [O’Shea] will build something.
“He’s got a track record for being able to build systems and a structure and a belief in a group that can be competitive.
“When he went in to Harlequins, they weren’t the competitive animal that they became. They (Italy) have some really good players.
“We had a similar score against them last year [58-15] but the score before that [at the 2015 World Cup] was 16-9. It’s only four years ago that Ireland were beaten by Italy.
“I think they will balance out again, they will get a bit of stability through Conor and they have a lot of guys playing their first Six Nations …guys who are promising. They have some real talent.”
Quotes via BBC Sport
O’Shea had to defend Italy’s place in the competition again on Saturday, with Georgia leading a charge to introduce a system of promotion and relegation in order to give sides like them a chance to compete among Europe’s elite. Indeed, Italy have lost their last nine Six Nations matches in succession, and are well on their way to collecting a twelfth wooden spoon, but calls to introduce a second tier have so far been rebuffed.
The Azzurri will get another chance to finally get some points on the board next time out – although, given the fact that it will be against England at Twickenham, they should probably just prepare for another long afternoon.