Conor O’Shea is “tailor-made” for the all-encompassing job of revitalising Italian rugby, according to Danny Care.
Care hailed O’Shea for acting as a surrogate father to many Harlequins stars in his six years at The Stoop, backing him to transfer those avuncular qualities into the international arena.
O’Shea’s mammoth Italian task is not just to forge a Test side that can move past 11 last-place finishes in 17 RBS 6 Nations tournaments — but also to revamp internal structures at every level.
Draw up a blueprint of the ideal Italy boss for 2017 though, and Care insists former Ireland full-back O’Shea fits all the criteria.
“I think he’s tailor-made for a job like that to be honest with you,” Care said.
“He’ll be doing so much more than just looking after the Test team.
“He’ll be going round all the clubs in Italy, inspiring kids and players from all ages, girls, boys, to go out there and play rugby.
“He’s got that infectious optimism and confidence.
“He’s the most positive person I’ve ever met and he’s a great guy for them.
“I was absolutely chuffed to bits that he got that big victory over South Africa in the autumn, which was great.
“And I’m sure there will be a few more of them coming in the next few years.
“It’s a long-term project for him, he’s taken his family, his two young girls over there, so he’s fully committed and that’s the type of man he is.
“I’m sure he’ll have a major impact over there.” Ireland face Italy in Rome on Saturday with O’Shea’s side already swimming against a familiar Six Nations tide, after a 33-7 defeat to Wales last weekend in Rome.
Joe Schmidt’s men are itching to get back to form after their 27-22 loss in Scotland, but Care believes O’Shea’s man-management style can yet draw the best out of his wounded Italians.
Care knows full well O’Shea had to drag him through several scrapes as rugby director at Harlequins - but insisted the 46-year-old’s loyalty always resonates with his players.
“He was huge for me and for a lot of young lads at Quins, we grew up with him,” said Care.
“He’s like a second dad. You’d get in trouble every now and then and he would be the guy to look after you.
“Never once would he have a go at you, he’d always look after you and would always understand reasons behind some things you’d do.
“And he’s a great guy to talk to, someone who always has your back.
“And what you really want as a coach, he’s someone you want to play for.”
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