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Tuesday 31 January 2023 Dublin: 7°C
# Azzurri
'He’s brilliant and he’s a legend': Italy must do everything to hang onto O'Shea, says Goosen
Defence coach Marius Goosen believes it is paramount that the Azzurri hang onto O’Shea.

ITALY MUST DO everything possible to retain the services of head coach Conor O’Shea after the Rugby World Cup, according to his defence coach Marius Goosen.

The former Ireland full-back has been in Italian rugby’s top job since 2016, but he is regarded as one of the game’s top coaches and administrators, with several clubs and associations keen to avail of his services.

Conor O’Shea dejected after the game Dan Sheridan / INPHO Conor O'Shea's men face Ireland on Saturday at the Aviva Stadium. Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

O’Shea’s Italy provide the first opponents for Ireland this Saturday as both sides launch their preparations for the World Cup in Japan next month and Goosen thinks O’Shea, who is contracted to the end of the 2019/20 season, is the keystone of the game in Italy and the man to drive their continuous progress.

“He’s brilliant; he’s a legend; he’s just easy to work with,” said Goosen, who also coached Benetton Rugby to last season’s Pro14 quarter-final.

I hope they will keep hold of him. It’s massively important. The whole coaching structure has been changed every four years in Italian Rugby and that doesn’t help,” added the South African.

“You can understand why they do it, but the continuity of this playing group and coaching group with Conor leading it into the next four years is massively important for results, but also for the whole system.

“Although it is a little bit unfair towards him, we haven’t got the results that he and everyone wanted. But I can guarantee you that by the team those results come it will be down to a lot of work that he has done over the last four years. Any maybe he will do in the next four year, I don’t know.”

The Italian squad is based in University of Limerick this week where O’Shea’s 38-man squad is preparing for the clash at Aviva Stadium this weekend.

Joe Schmidt with Conor O'Shea Ryan Byrne / INPHO O'Shea speaks with Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt before a Six Nations meeting in Dublin. Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

The will play in Pool B in the World Cup, but face the daunting task of playing New Zealand and South Africa in their final two games after the first taking on Namibia and Canada.

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Italy have never qualified from their pool at the World Cup, and Goosen says that correcting that is their number one priority.

But he also believes that Ireland are in with a huge shout of being world champions at the end of the tournament, despite never having managed to get past the quarter-final stage.

“Ireland are a top side. I think they have proven over the years that they have got a pool of players, maybe 50 players that can slot in on any day. They have incredible depth.

“I think they will back themselves to win the World Cup. But at that level there are so many teams at the same level so you need a bit of luck as well. I give them a pretty fair chance of going all the way, as I do with England, Wales, South Africa and New Zealand.

“They wouldn’t even think about a quarter-final, they will think about getting to the semis and then anything can happen. They are a top three side in the world.”

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