Conor O'Shea determined not to let Italian rugby "wither and die"

Italy head coach wants to build on the country's achievements

BY Raf Diallo 17:42 Wednesday 25 January 2017, 17:42 25 Jan 2017

Italy head coach Conor O’Shea at the launch of the 2017 RBS Six Nations Championship at The Hurlingham Club in London today ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Italy head coach Conor O'Shea says he's determined not to let rugby in the country "wither and die".

After taking charge of the Azzurri in 2016, the Irishman led his Italy team to a landmark win over South Africa in the November Internationals

But the upcoming 2017 Six Nations will be O'Shea's first as head coach and will give him an indication of where Italy are at vis a vis the other five sides. 

"We've a lot to change in Italian rugby. It's an unbelievable country, it's an unbelievable history and steeped in rugby history and we can't let that wither and die," he told Off The Ball's Dave McIntyre.

"I've told the players: 'We're at a crossroads'. And we have to make sure we lead Italian rugby onto the right path and then hopefully there will be some great days ahead."

He also wants to bolster the mentality of Italian rugby and forge a winning culture.

Italy head coach Conor O’Shea at the launch of the 2017 RBS Six Nations Championship at The Hurlingham Club in London today ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

February 11th is likely to be an emotional day for O'Shea as his native Ireland visit the Stadio Olimpico in Rome to face his Italy for the second round of Six Nations matches.

"Of course it's special and I'll have lots of friends and family around but Joe [Schmidt] probably had the same things when he was coaching [against] New Zealand," he said.

"Ireland is my home. It's my country. It's all I ever dreamt of representing so I'm always going to be the proudest of Irish people. I'm going to do something for Bord Bia the day before with the Irish ambassador because he's been brilliant for me since I moved to Italy. He was there at my first press conference.

"I'm Irish but come the day, it'll just be thinking about Italy and thinking about our performance."

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