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Italian honeymoon over for O'Shea as All Blacks jet in

By John Fallon

Published 09/11/2016

Hotseat: Conor O’Shea knows his role as Italy coach is only just getting started as New Zealand travel to Rome
Hotseat: Conor O’Shea knows his role as Italy coach is only just getting started as New Zealand travel to Rome

He knows there is every chance of facing an All Blacks backlash in his first home match as Italian coach, but Conor O'Shea is taking a much more long-term approach to his first job as an international boss.

O'Shea took charge over the summer at the outset of a four-year term which he hopes will be just as successful as his stints with London Irish, the English RFU and Harlequins.

The summer tour which saw them lose to Argentina before gaining wins in Canada and the USA has given him an introduction to his new world, but he is under no illusions about the task ahead.

But, like everything else the 46-year-old former Irish full-back has undertaken, O'Shea has gone into this job with gusto. His wife and two daughters have moved to Italy and the family have set up home in the beautiful town of Sirmione, a hugely popular tourist destination on the banks of Lake Garda.

That base, about half an hour from Verona in northern Italy, leaves O'Shea about an hour and a half from Treviso and Zebre's home in Parma, and he has been a regular spectator at their games in the PRO12 and Europe.

"These are exciting times because there's so much to do and there's so many things to try and get your head around and work at. But also it's important when we came over here, we said it right from the start, we embrace the culture here," he said.

"There's no point relocating to Italy and then not enjoying what an incredible country it is. It's getting that balance right and it was a nice long honeymoon over the summer because we didn't have a game. The tour was brilliant. I really enjoyed touring with the lads in Argentina, Canada and America. But now the All Blacks are coming so that'll be the end of the honeymoon."

They will play New Zealand in Rome on Saturday and then the following week they entertain South Africa in Florence, before meeting Tonga in Padua a week later.

"I've been really taken by the passion and the will to change over here and by the quality of some of the young players. It's not going to happen straight away but there's a lot of talent. If they harness things right here, the game is suited to the Italian psyche," he added.

Meanwhile, South Africa's backroom staff believe Ireland's stunning win over New Zealand in Chicago offers a blueprint for victory over England at Twickenham on Saturday.

Springboks forwards coach Matt Proudfoot hailed Ireland "a damn good side" in the wake of their 40-29 win over the All Blacks at Soldier Field.

Ireland claimed their maiden triumph over New Zealand in 111 years - and now Proudfoot wants South Africa to harness that as motivation.

"I listened to the comments of (All Blacks head coach) Steve Hansen and I echo them. He was complimentary of what Ireland are doing, and that's what you get when you get that alignment," he said. "If you've got 23 players all seeing the same picture and executing that, that's when you get a great result.

"They've been setting up for that victory for a long time and planning for it. And they're a damn good side."

Belfast Telegraph

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