Conor O’Shea had admitted he is finding it really difficult to accept that Italy’s World Cup campaign has been prematurely ended by a weather cancellation in Japan.
That Italians were due to round off their pool schedule with Saturday’s encounter versus defending champions New Zealand in Toyota.
However, safety concerns due to the forecasted landfall of Typhoon Hagibis had led to the match’s cancellation, a development that had denied the long-serving Sergio Parisse his send-off into international retirement on the world stage.
“Clearly everyone is down because we wanted to have the chance to play against New Zealand,” said O’Shea after World Rugby’s revelation that the game was being called off.
“For us, it was our next challenge and perhaps for the last time for Sergio, Ale (Alessandro Zanni), and Leo (Leonardo Ghiraldini) to play and the chance to give young players a chance. I’m disappointed for the players, the staff and the fans.
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“I’m sure it was a hard decision for World Rugby. All the other teams whose matches have been cancelled are already through and we were the only ones who had a chance to qualify. We didn’t know until this morning, so I’d been telling Sergio and the boys that it was on but likely to be wet, so they got the bucket of water out.
“I’m finding it really difficult and I saw the players’ reaction after training and it was horrible because these guys have given their lives to Italian rugby and their World Cup has ended on the training pitch when it should be on the playing field.
“For the World Cup not to finish in front of the fans on the pitch, in front of the fans watching on TV in Italy, it is a hard day for all of us and difficult to put into words. I feel bad for Sergio and the whole squad not to have the possibility to finish their World Cup on the pitch in front of the fans, and then together in the changing room. To have to accept it won’t be the case is really, really hard to take.”
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Italy would have needed a first-ever win over New Zealand to progress to the quarter-finals and while that was a long odds situation, O’Shea was disappointed they have been eliminated without playing. “You never know what can happen on the pitch – like we found out against South Africa. We had a long time preparing for this, there was good energy and good spirit in the squad. I feel privileged to have worked with them.
“We had the chance to qualify. I’m not saying we would have beaten them, but you want to finish on the pitch. Anything can happen and you’re very emotional especially for Leonardo Ghiraldini, who missed his last chance to play in an Italy jersey and to hear that your international career is finished after training is tough to take.
“The match versus New Zealand wasn’t the last match of our World Cup. It was the next challenge on our journey and that was our mentality. We wanted to show our best against New Zealand. There are things on the field and off it for the coaching team and federation to at to decide the direction they take.”
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