O'Shea treating Italy 'like an alcoholic'

Sat, 18 Feb 2017 14:47

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Conor O'Shea says he has approached the huge challenge of being Italy head coach like an alcoholic addressing his addiction and admitting there is a problem.

The 46-year-old Irishman - who replaced Frenchman Jacques Brunel last year - told The Times he needed to change the mindset of the players who were suffering the inevitable consequences of always being told they were useless.

The many critics have had a field day following last Saturday's abject 10-63 defeat at the hands of his native Ireland with some even questioning do Italy deserve to stay in the competition - the well-funded Georgia being mooted as a potential replacement.

That appears a long-shot although another hammering against Grand Slam holders England at Twickenham on Sunday week will provide further ammunition.    

"It's like an alcoholic. The first thing he has to do is say, 'I have a problem.' We have to acknowledge it," he told Saturday's edition of The Times.

"Of course there is a lot to change, but any Tom, Dick and Harry can come in here and tell us what we need to do.

"If someone says you are really bad at your job, and everyone else then keeps telling you that, then it's in your head.

"There is so much negativity and I don't just mean external. These players are constantly told they are not good enough.

"We need players mentally strong enough to deal with very tough times."

O'Shea - who established his coaching credentials at English Premiership side Harlequins guiding them to the domestic title in 2012 and two European Challenge trophy victories - says the debate about Italy's future in the Six Nations is superfluous.

"It was the four nations, then five," said O'Shea, who is following in the footsteps of coaching greats like Nick Mallett and Pierre Berbizier in trying to turn around the fortunes of Italy.

"We should be expanding, not going the other way.

"Over the last 30 Six Nations matches before this year Scotland had won one more than Italy, and go back to my day and Ireland would have been relegated a few times.

"I look at it and think Italy has the third-biggest economy in Europe. If we want to grow the game, rugby can ill afford to say, 'We don't need you.' If we get our act together then the whole conversation becomes a moot point anyway."

O'Shea, an exciting fullback as a player earning 35 caps and scoring 11 tries, says the promise being shown by the Under-20 side is a basis for optimism about the future as was the senior side's historic 20-18 triumph over an admittedly demoralised South Africa last November.

"There are a lot of people on the outside saying they are not good enough," said O'Shea, who has brought in the experienced pair of Mike Catt and Brendan Venter to back him up in the coaching department.

"Having been here long enough now, I can say they will be plenty good enough."

Agence France-Presse

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