O'Shea sitting alongside Parisse at yesterday's post-match press conference. Billy Stickland/INPHO
tough day at the office

'I hate days like this': Conor O'Shea hurt by Ireland defeat

You’ve got to feel for the Italian head coach.

IF CONOR O’SHEA wasn’t fully aware of the size of the task on his hands at the helm of Italian rugby, then he almost certainly is now after two deflating defeats.

The Italian head coach cut a forlorn figure at his post-match press conference yesterday as he fronted up to questions about his team’s performance after their heavy, nine-try loss to Ireland.

It wasn’t so much the result which was most disappointing, but the manner in which the hosts meekly rolled over without any sort of fight to slump to a second consecutive home defeat in this Six Nations.

You’re really got to feel for the former Ireland international.

The Azzurri would have come into this Championship buoyed by encouraging results in November, including that historic win over South Africa, but they appear to have taken one step forward, two steps back.

Sitting alongside captain Sergio Parisse, O’Shea was brutally honest in his assessment.

“We are proud people sitting up here and we don’t like today,” he said.

Sergio Parisse dejected after the game Italy were unable to deal with Ireland in Rome yesterday. Billy Stickland / INPHO Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

“I hate days like this but we know what we have to do and we are working together for Italian rugby. Today was hard, it’s a different challenge. That Ireland team is better than the Welsh team we played, 100%.”

“In the first 20 minutes we took a battering, today was an incredibly hard day. There will be mistakes we made in terms of the set-piece and almost inviting pressure. We talked about Ireland’s ability to hold onto the ball through a lot of phases, which is different to Wales. That first 20 minutes they were outstanding, we had a lot of difficulties. After eight, nine or 10 phases, someone will make an error and the score will come but credit to Ireland for taking it through the phases.

“It wasn’t about game plan today. We played against a team which, if you cut everything back, is better than us at this stage and the physical battering we took, took its toll by the end of the game. We’ll have better days and other hard days during this journey we need to take.”

O’Shea now has the task of picking his troops back up and preparing for a trip to Twickenham, where another hammering will be on the cards if Italy don’t make huge improvements across the board.

The former Harlequins DOR continued: ”I’m not going to sit beside Sergio and talk about a long-term project because I know this group have some great days in them but we have to learn, get mentally stronger and we have a lot to change in Italian rugby to get that.

Brendan Venter and Conor O'Shea O'Shea has a huge task on his hands. Billy Stickland / INPHO Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

“But I could name a lot of players in the 1990s who were great Irish rugby players and without the right support they were not able to fulfil what they were capable of doing. We have a really good group of players, people will smile wryly and hang their heads but we will never change our heads and intention to fight tooth and nail to make the changes and also get some short-terms results.

“It’s very tough today but we must be ready in two week’s time ahead of the England match. The focus must be our next job and our next job is England at Twickenham in two weeks.”

“Anyone involved in turning businesses around know there are things that have to happen.”

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