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Six Nations: Azzurri coach O'Shea vows to battle on after Ireland demolition job

By Jonathan Bradley

If November produced some mixed signals, the last two weekends have made one thing abundantly clear - Italian coach Conor O'Shea has a gigantic job on his hands.

While Italy were competitive for 50 minutes against Wales in the opening game, they were still comfortably beaten by the final whistle, avoiding surrendering the bonus point only thanks to a TMO decision in the final minute.

Coupled with Ireland's demolition job on Saturday and the numbers make sombre reading, played two, lost two, 12 tries against, minus 79 points difference.

Unsurprisingly, it's enough to raise once again old questions about whether this side is fit to play in the competition.

The Azzurri have not progressed as hoped or expected since Five Nations became Six in the year 2000, with Georgia's monopoly of Europe's second tier competition over the last six years hardly aiding the argument against a promotion and relegation system.

The national stadium is hard to fill, but there were more than 23,000 empty seats for Saturday's non-contest.

Former Ireland full-back O'Shea, however, who now has some eight months on the job under his belt, says the country will battle on.

"There will always be discussion but we have earned the right through our performances through the years to be where we are," said the former Harlequins boss.

"Until the rules change there is no debate.

"We are proud people sitting up here and we don't like days like this.

"I hate days like this but we know what we have to do and we are working together for Italian rugby.

"This was hard, it's a different challenge.

"That Ireland team is better than the Welsh team we played, 100%."

"The focus must be our next job and our next job is England at Twickenham in two weeks."

Belfast Telegraph


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