Milan - Conor O'Shea believes he has found the right mix of
youth and experience as Italy look for a breakthrough in three November Tests
against southern hemisphere sides to build towards the 2019 World Cup.
Captain and number eight Sergio Parisse and hooker Leonardo
Ghiraldini are both experienced campaigners and are back for games against
Fiji, Argentina and South Africa on consecutive weekends between November
The squad also includes five new faces - fullback Matteo
Minozzi, Ireland-born flyhalf Ian McKinley, New Zealand-born centre Jayden
Hayward, and loose forwards Renato Giammarioli and Giovanni Licata.
"Finally I see the light at the end of the
tunnel," O'Shea told a press conference in Milan on Wednesday.
"We have young players with a lot of potential like
Mattia Bellini and people with experience like Sergio (Parisse).
"We have three opportunities to win. I don't know if we
will do it, I hope so, but we are certainly on the right track."
Optimism is a distinctive feature of Irishman O'Shea's
character, but this year, unlike other seasons, he believes signals for a
positive outcome are concrete.
Results have been encouraging for the two Italian franchises
from the first six rounds of Pro 14 rugby - Trevisio having three wins and
"I am convinced that the difference between us and the
others is the working rate," continued the former Ireland international.
"In 20 years we haven't made the necessary changes, but
in the last two, partly because of the young players, we have done so much.
Many of our problems are in the head, confidence. Now I feel there is a
Italy play Fiji in Catania on November 11, followed by
Argentina in Florence on November 18 and South Africa in Padua on November 25.
O'Shea - capped 35 times for Ireland before his career was
cut short aged 30 due to a knee injury - coached his former club London Irish
and Harlequins before joining Italy in March 2016.
But apart from an historic victory over South Africa in
November 2016, his achievements have been slim with Italy failing to score any
points in his first Six Nations campaign.
But Stade Francais's Parisse, 34, credits O'Shea with
changing the Italy team's mentality.
"With Conor we challenge ourselves. The way the two
franchises have started the season bodes well. I'm happy, especially because
now the boys are sorry, angry if they lose by one or two points, they no longer
say 'well we got close'."
"There is a progressive improvement," continued
Italian rugby federation president Alfredo Gavazzi, adding the decision to hold
a match in Catania was to try and develop the sport in Sicily.