Conor O’Shea has ruled himself out of becoming the new Munster CEO, insisting his focus is on getting Italy ready for the World Cup in Japan.
O’Shea became aware he was being linked to the vacant provincial role 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 three years and is contracted up until the end of the 2019-2020 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 the job.
But yesterday he dismissed reports linking him to the Munster job 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.
O’Shea has retained just three of the starting 15 who almost shocked France in the Six Nations last March for the 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. O’Shea is confident 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 playing more than we thought he would.
“When you remember him as a player and you think of the width and attacking style he played with for Bath and England.
“That is what he is going to bring to the Irish backline. He will be outstanding.
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 afterward 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.
“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 that little bit special.”
Italy are in World Cup Pool B alongside New Zealand and South Africa, one of which is likely to be Ireland’s quarter-final opponents.
O’Shea gives Schmidt’s men every chance of going all the way. “I have been speaking to Joe pretty regularly over the summer,” said O’Shea.
“The depth they have is pretty special and it’s something that has been created in Ireland over the last number of years. They are in a really good place. You look at who could win the World Cup and you can’t call it, there is no standout team. Any team that goes on a run at the right time could do something. That includes Ireland.”