London - Conor O'Shea says the future of Italian rugby
matters more than whether he remains the head coach of the Azzurri.
O'Shea is entering the final year of a four-year deal and
media reports have suggested the Italian Rugby Federation (FIR) have been
sounding out possible replacement candidates for the former Ireland fullback.
But O'Shea, speaking at the official launch of the 2019 Six
Nations in London on Wednesday, said: "It's not about me, it's about the
future of Italian rugby."
Italy, who do not possess the same extensive rugby or player
pool as their major continental rivals, have struggled since joining what was
the Five Nations Championship in 2000 and have won just one match in Europe's
premier international rugby union tournament during the past five years.
Asked whether his measure of Championship success was wins
and losses, O'Shea replied: "We don't control that. We want to deliver a
consistency in our performance.
"Over the last 12-18 months, we know we've beaten
Georgia, beaten Japan away, beaten Fiji - we haven't beaten teams at the
"We've had some very competitive games, Scotland in the
Six Nations last year (a 29-27 defeat in Rome) where we played some fantastic
rugby, Australia in November where we played some of our best rugby but without
the energy infusion, the energy of a (winning) result."
He added: "We have to create a habit of intensity that
we bring to every game and if we do we will be ever more competitive."
Meanwhile veteran Italy captain Sergio Parisse, in a year
that will also feature the World Cup in Japan, said the 2019 Six Nations might
be his last.
"Maybe it's my last Six Nations back-row is very
competitive," said the 35-year-old No 8 who has appeared in 134 Tests.
Italy begin their latest Championship campaign away to an
improving Scotland on February 2 and O'Shea said: "Our only focus is on
delivering a massively intense performance against Scotland and see where that
"We are not stupid, we know the scale of the challenge.
We are prepared to win, we want to win, we are competitive people."