O’Shea: ‘I really loved it. I’ve left so much behind me’

O’Shea: ‘I really loved it. I’ve left so much behind me’

Conor O’Shea is done as a rugby coach.

The former London Irish, Harlequins and Italy boss was guarded, almost prickly, when asked yesterday about his future having parted company with the Azzurri, but there was enough in his otherwise lengthy and considered answers to rule out that particular path.

For now, anyway.

What his next role will be is still uncertain. Reports during the recent World Cup claimed he was lined up for a senior position in the RFU’s professional rugby department. He has worked for the English union before, and for the English Institute of Sport.

“People know more about my new job than I do,” he said at the launch of the N-Pro rugby headguard in Dublin with more than a hint of annoyance in his voice.

I have just left my old job. My new job will come when it comes.

Whatever comes next it won’t involve the IRFU who have not made any contact.

O’Shea has undoubtedly had a range of offers, whether in management/coaching or in sports administration, but he was tightlipped on his future here, looking forward no further than a speaking engagement he had at his daughter’s school fundraiser last night.

But there were numerous indicators of his thought process throughout a 40-minute interview. He clearly enjoyed his time with Italy but it was countered by the strain of overseeing a team, and an entire system, that was running as fast as it could just to hold on to the coattails of others.

The all-consuming nature of life as a coach was never more obvious than during the World Cup when the team spent all bar six days across roughly 12 weeks in a hotel. There was no “escape valve”, no chance to decompress at home for a few hours with his wife and kids.

If that wasn’t representative of the majority of his time in Italy then the rigours of the role across four years were hammered home when he mentioned

the fact

that he had made his daughter’s birthday this month for the first time since he started with Italy in 2016.

The November internationals stop for no man, woman or child.

“A broader position would be my pathway at the moment. It’s nigh on 10 years with 'Quins and Italy. Your emotional state is driven by a result at the weekend and there’s some great times in that and some tough times in that, winning things and losing things.

“My wife and kids would deserve that if I go to a match I’m not there chewing over the match for 10 days and our mood is dependent on the game.”

That appears to be that, then. If he is still unsure as to his next step then it shouldn’t be a surprise. It’s only a week and change since he officially finished up with the Azzurri. Walking away was emotional but he is certain it was the right time even with a contract until 2020.

Staying on for the Six Nations just didn’t sit right. He would never see himself as the type to tread water but how could he ask players and coaches and staff to give their hearts and souls to that campaign when he was halfway out the door himself?

No, better to hand over the keys than drive without total conviction.

“Why waste three months? We had agreed that Franco Smith was coming in anyway. He speaks fluent Italian, better than me, having lived there. He understands the politics, there is continuity there and a fresh voice and fresh energy...

“If I was committed to another four years it would be different. Unless you’re fully invested... and that’s a personal thing. It could be different for different people. I really loved it. I’ve left so much behind me leaving last Wednesday.”

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