Cheetahs boss Franco Smith is being lined up to take over as Italy boss following the 2019 World Cup.


The Italian federation have made no secret that they have been on the look-out for a coach to succeed Conor O’Shea, who has held the reins since 2016.

While the Irishman’s structural work in trying to improve the Azzurri has been well respected, his failure to secure an improvement in Test team results means that a change is now on the cards after Smith’s PRO14 franchise issued a statement following their weekend win over Dragons in Bloemfontein.

”The management of the Free State Cheetahs is aware of the offer made to Franco Smith, head coach of the Toyota Cheetahs, to coach the Italian national team from 1 January 2020,” read their statement. 

“The situation will be handled at the highest level with the board of directors of the Free State Cheetahs (Pty) Ltd.

“Management wish to assure stakeholders, suite holders and supporters that the coaching structures will be properly structured to ensure success.


“Management of the Free State Cheetahs (Pty) Ltd will swiftly deal with the situation and the board of directors will see to it that the Cheetah teams perform at the highest levels in all the competitions that they participate in.”

Italian rugby president Alfredo Gavazzi later reacted on Twitter: “Together with the technical management and CT O’Shea, we are evaluating various options to raise the level of the staff of our national team more and more. Today there are various profiles of potential interest for a collaboration with @federugby. Franco Smith is among the people contacted.”

O’Shea has managed to win just six of his 33 matches in charge of Italy and they have suffered three consecutive sixth place finishes in the Six Nations under him. Smith has excellent knowledge of the Italian scene having coached at Treviso when they were first introduced to what is now the PRO14 in 2010. 


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