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Laszlo Geczo/INPHO Conor O'Shea at Italy training in Limerick.
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'I read it when I came over here and had a bit of a laugh' - O'Shea dismisses link to Munster CEO role
The Italy head coach believes Ireland are World Cup contenders despite their poor Six Nations.

CONOR O’SHEA HAS ruled himself out of becoming the new Munster CEO and says his sole focus is on getting Italy ready for the World Cup in Japan.

O’Shea admitted that he was aware of his name being linked in some quarters to the vacant Munster job when he arrived in Ireland this week to set up camp in Limerick ahead of Saturday’s clash with Ireland at the Aviva Stadium.

The former Ireland fullback has been in Italy’s top job for the three years and is contracted up until the end of the 2019/2020 season.

But with change being mooted in Italian rugby after the World Cup — with former Springbok Franco Smith being linked with a return to Italy having previously coached Treviso — and Munster searching for a new chief executive following the retirement of Garrett Fitzgerald, Limerick-born O’Shea was linked the job.

On Thursday, however, he dismissed any notion that he would fill the vacancy following the World Cup.

“No, no,” said O’Shea, when asked if he was interested in the job.

I read it when I came over here and just had a bit of a laugh at it. It’s just World Cup, Six Nations and we will see.

Conor O'Shea Laszlo Geczo / INPHO Conor O'Shea in Limerick. Laszlo Geczo / INPHO / INPHO

O’Shea has retained just three of the starting 15 who almost shocked France in the Six Nations last March for the game at the Aviva Stadium.

And while he fancies Ireland to make a strong bid for glory in Japan under Joe Schmidt, he thinks the IRFU have done a nice bit of business by bringing in attack coach Mike Catt as part of Andy Farrell’s coaching ticket for after the World Cup.

Catt is the current attack coach with Italy and, O’Shea, who also worked alongside him at London Irish, believes the former English World Cup winner will be a fantastic addition for Ireland.

“I brought him to London Irish a long time ago when he was finishing off his playing career,” said O’Shea.

“I brought him there to coach the young fellas even though he ended playing more than we thought he would.

“When you remember him as a player and you think of the style and era he played with and under, Bath and England… The width you bring to a game and the attacking nature: that is what he is going to bring to the Irish backline.

“When you look at our tries scored over the last couple of years, you look at the style and attack we now have… He will be outstanding.

“There is good people over here [in the Irish setup]. I wouldn’t say there are any missing parts but any new coaching team is going to have new blood and the players need that.

“He will settle in good and fast.”

Mike Catt and Conor O'Shea Laszlo Geczo / INPHO Mike Catt and Conor O'Shea. Laszlo Geczo / INPHO / INPHO

The Italian backline will be marshalled by tomorrow by Carlo Canna but Ian McKinley — who represented his native Ireland at a Junior World Cup a decade ago — is set to win his ninth cap off the bench.

O’Shea, who gave McKinley his international debut two years ago against Fiji, said the 29-year old is an inspirational figure on and off the field after battling back to play at the highest level despite losing the sight in his left eye.

“It is amazing and he is an amazing bloke,” said O’Shea.

When Wayne Smith came over for a week, he came up to me afterwards and said, ‘Wherever you go you, should take him with you because he will be an incredible coach as well.’

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“He has got that demeanour and what he has gone through and to get him to where he is, his attention to detail and abilities, Ian is an example with what he has done.

When you hear my Italian, it’s rubbish, it’s the Irish accent in it, but Ian speaks like a local. Everything he does is that little bit special.

Ian McKinley Laszlo Geczo / INPHO Italy out-half Ian McKinley. Laszlo Geczo / INPHO / INPHO

Italy find themselves in Pool B at the World Cup alongside New Zealand and South Africa, one of whom are likely to be Ireland’s quarter-final opponents barring a seismic upset in either group.

And whoever they might wind up facing, O’Shea gives Schmidt’s men every chance of going all the way in this year’s tournament.

“I have been speaking to Joe pretty regularly over the summer,” he said.

“The depth that they have is pretty special and it’s something that has been created in Ireland over the last number of years. They are in a really good place.

“You look at who could win the World Cup and you can’t call it, there is no standout team. Any team that goes on a run at the right time could do something. That includes Ireland.”

The42 Rugby Weekly is back as we get ready for next month’s World Cup. Murray, Gavan and Bernard Jackman get us started by looking ahead to this weekend’s opening warm-up game against Italy.

The42 Rugby Weekly / SoundCloud

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