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Former Italy scrum-half Paul Griffen says keeping Conor O'Shea in charge has to be a priority for the side when his contract expires next year.

The former Irish International has been head coach of the Azzurri since 2016, preparing for his first World Cup campaign later this year.

O'Shea signed a four-year deal to take charge of Italy, which comes to an end after the 2020 Six Nations Championship.

Despite a good start, where Italy shocked South Africa in Florence in 2016, Italy are still waiting for their first Six Nations win under O'Shea in 15 attempts.

He's hinted that he's open to staying on as head coach beyond 2020, and speaking on this week's Land of the Rising Scrum, former Italy scrum-half Paul Griffen says Italy have to keep him.

"I think he's someone that Italy needs to keep, I don't know if they want to, but they need to keep him, they need to keep a bit of continuity in there.

"The teams that are successful have coaches for the long term, they can implement what they want to do on game plans, they can work on those micro-skills and developing players and getting the best out of them.

"I think at the moment with the work cos has done he's getting more out of players than what they've given in years gone by. That comes down to the coaching staff around him, but also his man-management, he's very good at stimulating and getting the best out of people."

Italy have never reached the quarterfinals of the World Cup, and the chances of them breaking that duck in 2019 in Japan looks a tall order. They'll have to get past New Zealand or South Africa, in order to reach the last eight.

However, despite their poor form, Griffen says a closer look at results suggests they're not far off a big win.

"During the Six Nations, Italy in four of the five games were very competitive.

"It comes down to those little instances, those little micro-skills, those little micro-moments, where you either score or you don't. At the moment, we just have those little details which are hindering the results.

"The substance and the contents of what we've got are fantastic. With Conor O Shea coming in too it's been a big part.

"With the preparation, they've accepted to play Ireland France and England before the World Cup. They know the World Cup pool is going to be tough with the South Africans and New Zealand, so they're trying to prepare themselves as much as they can, to get as much out of those games to spring a surprise against South Africa like they did a couple of years back," he added.

However, there is one area of O'Shea's tenure which Griffen says leaves a lot to be desired.

"He speaks worse Italian than me, so that's good!

"We catch up every now and then, just through the media stuff. He says to me, 'How did you learn Italian?'. And I say, 'If I didn't know a word I just invented it. He's started doing that as well.

I've seen a few interviews where he just chucks in a word that means absolutely nothing. He's made a big difference though, he's made a massive difference in everything he's done so far."

You can listen back to this week's episode of Land of the Rising Scrum, and catch all of our previous episodes right here.

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