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O’Shea named Italy’s new rugby coach

AP

Italy confirmed Harlequins director of rugby Conor O’Shea as its new coach on Friday, and gave him a four-year deal.

O’Shea will see out his job at the London-based club and start with Italy in June.

The first Irishman to coach Italy will lead the team on its three-test tour that month of Argentina, the United States, and Canada.

The 45-year-old O’Shea hinted he would become Italy coach in January, when he announced he was leaving Harlequins at the end of the season.

He took over the club in 2010 after the Bloodgate affair, and led it to its first English Premiership title in 2012, while also winning the European Challenge Cup and the Anglo-Welsh Cup. The team is in the Challenge Cup quarterfinals this season.

O’Shea, a former fullback, earned 35 caps for Ireland from 1993-2000.

Jacques Brunel’s last match in charge of Italy was last weekend when they finished the Six Nations without a win. But the Italians were badly depleted by injuries.

“I’m honored and excited to be able to work with all the elements in Italian rugby to develop the undoubtable potential Italy has as a rugby nation,” O’Shea said on the Italian Rugby Federation website. “In the ’90s, I played against Italy many times, and I know on the part of the federation and the current group of players that there is the will and the capacity to become the strongest Italian squad ever.”

O’Shea will be assisted by Mike Catt, a 2003 World Cup winner with England, who is reprising his role under the previous England regime as attack coach, and Giampiero De Carli, the forwards coach.

Stephen Aboud, the technical director at the Irish Rugby Football Union, was also taking over the under-20s and youth programs from Aug. 1.

“The naming of the new coach and assistants is a crucial turning point,” Italian federation president Alfredo Gavazzi said. “We have identified not only three high-profile figures, but three people who, through their own professional careers, are in possession of qualities needed to continue to develop our program.”