Azzurri in market for new coach?
Italy got their Six Nations preparations underway at their Giulio Onesti base in Rome on Sunday amid media reports in France that Racing 92 pair Laurent Labit and Laurent Travers have been approached about replacing Conor O’Shea as boss at the end of this year’s World Cup in Japan.
Irishman O’Shea, an English Premiership winner with Harlequins in 2012, is contracted with the Italian federation through to the conclusion of the 2020 Six Nations after signing a four-year contract in March 2016.
However, results haven’t been encouraging during his reign. There have been just six wins in 28 matches, a 21.4% success rate, and just two of those successes have come in their last 13 outings, prompting background manoeuvrings about identifying a possible post-World Cup successor.
French publication Midi Olympique have reported that Racing duo Labit and Travers, who were previously approached about the Azzurri post in 2015, have been sounded out again even though they are under contract with their Parisian club until 2022.
The bi-weekly rugby paper suggested that unnamed English and New Zealand coaches have also been contacted about the position, but the French double act is apparently the only candidate to so far have the unanimous approval of the Italian bosses.
Whether Labit and Travers, who have won Top 14 titles with Castres and Racing and are chasing hard for Champions Cup glory, would warm to the Italian proposal is difficult to say as the Azzurri’s lack of success would discourage the most optimistic coach on the planet.
Without a Six Nations win since beating Scotland in February 2015, the Italians have lost all 10 championship matches that O’Shea has been in charge for.
They open their latest campaign away to Scotland in Edinburgh on February 2, but the debate suggesting they should be replaced in the championship was diluted over the winter by their November win over Georgia.
Some people believe the eastern Europeans should be allowed to compete against the likes of Ireland and England in the tournament at Italy’s expense.
By Liam Heagney