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I'm only focused on Italy, not Munster CEO vacancy: O'Shea

 

Conor O'Shea
Conor O'Shea

By Daragh Small

Conor O'Shea has ruled himself out of becoming the new Munster CEO and said his sole focus is on getting Italy ready for the World Cup in Japan.

O'Shea said that he became aware that he was being linked in some quarters to the vacant Munster job when he arrived in Ireland to set up camp in Limerick this week ahead of tomorrow's clash at the Aviva Stadium.

The former Ireland full-back has been in Italy's top job for the past three years and is contracted up until the end of the 2019-20 season.

But with change being muted 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 native O'Shea was linked with the job.

But yesterday he dismissed the reports and said his focus is entirely on Italy, starting with Ireland this weekend and continuing into the World Cup.

"No, no," said O'Shea when asked if he was interested in the vacancy in Munster.

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

O'Shea has retained just three of the starting 15 that almost shocked France in the Six Nations last March for tomorrow's warm-up 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 the Andy Farrell coaching ticket 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 to 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 up 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. 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."

The Italian backline will be marshalled tomorrow by Carlo Canna but Ian McKinley 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.

"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 just that little bit special."

Italy are in Pool B in the Rugby World Cup alongside New Zealand and South Africa, one of which is likely to be Ireland's quarter-final opponents.

And O'Shea believes that Schmidt's men have every chance of going all the way.

"I have been speaking to Joe pretty regularly over the summer," said O'Shea.

"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 now in a really good place.

"You look at who could win the World Cup and you can't call it, there is no stand-out team. Any team that goes on a run at the right time could do something. That includes Ireland."

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