Care backs O'Shea for Italian job

Fri, 24 Feb 2017 16:40
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IN THE SPOTLIGHT: England scrumhalf Danny Care believes his former club boss Conor O'Shea is the right man to oversee a revival in Italy's fortunes despite a tough start to his first Six Nations with the Azzurri.

Italy coach O'Shea, a former Ireland fullback, enjoyed a landmark early success with his adopted country when he guided the team to their first-ever win over rugby giants South Africa in November.

But the Azzurri are once again struggling in the Six Nations after a 7-33 loss to Wales was followed by Ireland's record 63-10 rout of Italy in Rome.

To make matters worse, Italy's next match sees them away to defending champions England - a team they've never beaten - at Twickenham on Sunday, with the hosts on a 16-game winning streak against all opponents.

Prior to his Italy appointment, O'Shea was director of rugby at Premiership side Harlequins and Care, still with the London club, was readying himself for something of a backlash.

"I think they will be disappointed and they will come out firing this week," Care told the BBC. "Conor and the coaches will get them pumped up,"

Care added O'Shea was well aware of the scale of the task confronting him with Italy.

"I think it is huge, but he knew that when he took it. He moved his whole family over there, two young girls, to a different country.

"You saw instant results with the South Africa game. They have the potential to be a great team. I think it is the consistency.

"Conor won’t just be scratching the surface with the first team, it will be all the way down to the youth levels and develop the next generation of Italian rugby players.

"He’s a top man. They’ll be fine,"

Sunday is set to see Care return to the starting XV in one of four changes made by England coach Eddie Jones following a 21-16 win over Wales earlier this month, with Ben Youngs on the bench.

The roles have generally been reversed recently, with Care having made just two starts since the Australian took charge of England following their first-round exit at the 2015 World Cup.

"It’s great to be back in the starting line-up," said the 30-year-old Care, a veteran of 68 Tests but a mere 30 starts.

"It has nearly been a year someone reminded me earlier. It is where you want to be. I’m dying to get back out there,"

Care added: "I think Ben and I have been around long enough that we help each other out. I feel if I am performing well in training and in matches then it will hopefully help him in games and vice-versa.

"Whoever plays, the other one will shake the other guy’s hand,"

Jones, explaining his decision to start with Care, told reporters at England's training base that he wanted to subdue Italy early on.

"We want to start the game with pace against the Italians," Jones explained. "We know they are going to be emotional, they've got a great coaching staff - Conor O'Shea, Brendan Venter and Mike Catt - and we want to take the sting out of the game the first part.

"Danny's a very good running scrumhalf and he suits our gameplan for this game,"

Jones has also given a first Test start to New Zealand-born former rugby league star Ben Te'o, who will partner Owen Farrell in midfield.

"He's a different sort of player, Ben," said Jones.

"He's a ball-runner and our backs have been predominantly passing players and we just felt that it would give us another option to play a ball-runner in there."

Agence France-Presse

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Team P W D L Pts
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France 3 1 0 2 6
Italy 3 0 0 3 0