Conor O'Shea aims to bring 'winning culture' to Italy

Benetton Treviso outhalf, Ian McKinley, speaks to Oisin Langan ahead of Ireland's clash with the Azzurri

Former Leinster and current Benetton Treviso outhalf Ian McKinley says Conor O'Shea is attempting to bring a winning culture to Italian rugby ahead of Ireland's clash with the Azzurri this weekend.

Joe Schmidt's side made a losing start to their Six Nations campaign last weekend at Murrayfield and despite the defeat, McKinley is not expecting a backlash from the Irish team.

"I expect them to perform like any professional Irish team and do their job," he told Newstalk Sport's Oisin Langan. "Execute what they've planned all week and the same will go for Italy.

"You don't change your habits after one loss. It's attention to detail and making sure you don't make the same mistake twice.  

"It's an international match and players will be ready for it. Ireland will have been disappointed with their result. I thought it was an excellent game and Scotland defended very well, but Ireland came back. It was just unfortunate that they couldn't keep the momentum going that they had built up in the second half.

"From Italy's point of view, they'll just want to try and produce a complete 80 minute performance instead of the 50-60 minutes that we saw last weekend."

The drop-off in performance levels is something that the 27-year-old has identified as one the major flaw that currently exist within Italian rugby and says that in order to reach new levels in international success, they must strive for greater consistency in their performances.

"You've seen in the November internationals that Italy can put in a performance. Obviously the win against South Africa was huge. Then the following week to lose against Tonga, there's that inconsistency. 

"Again at the weekend, against Wales they put in a 50-60 minute performance that was really positive and then just didn't finish it off. There's a lot of talent here, but it's just creating that culture of winning."

Italy's Andrea Lovotti celebrates after scoring during Italy Six Nations opener against Wales. Despite leading at the midway point, Italy would go on to lose the game. Image: Andrew Medichini AP/Press Association Images

Conor O'Shea's appointment as Italy head coach last March turned heads, but with performances in the November series and so far in the Six Nations, there have been a lot of positives brought to the role. 

"He's been to a lot of training sessions and he's pretty much overseeing everything and how it's run. That's just to get an idea of how to change culture and try to implement a lot of positive things in Italian rugby. He's definitely hands-on and inputting all his experience that he's had in England over the last couple of years.

"He's certainly having a positive impact on what is going on... structurally, Italian rugby is a lot different to Irish, English, Welsh and even Scottish rugby. The structure is certainly different so I think they're looking at that in terms of the Academy system. All the young players coming through is a big part of the development. 

"They're aiming to create more competition and to hopefully have stronger teams coming through."

Not only are they aiming to create more competition, but a winning culture within the country that will hopefully bolster professional teams Treviso and Zebre in the Guinness PRO12.

"It's a collective effort. It's not just the players on the field, there's a huge support network needed for everyone involved to create something good. Using Ireland as an example, back in the 1990s things weren't looking too good. Since then there's been a collective change in mentality.

"The results of that now are that Ireland are one of the top nations in rugby. I'm not saying Italy will be the same story, but I think there will be a collective effort.

"In terms of Zebre and Treviso, you have to look at the consistency of the play. If you're looking at results this year, there are results that are games that are close up until the 60th or 65th minute. 

"A few weeks ago, Treviso played against La Rochelle who are one of the top teams in France at the minute and it was only 10-8 to them up until the 65th minute mark. After that, things changed. There was maybe a lack on concentration and a couple of errors will be punished at this level."

Of the game itself this weekend at the Stadio Olimpico, he said: "I expect Ireland to bring a lot of intensity and a lot of pace, particularly in attack. They'll put a lot of pressure on at ruck time to get quick ball against the Italians. 

"From Italy's point of view, they'll just want to try and produce a complete 80 minute performance instead of the 50-60 minutes that we saw last weekend."