Newly appointed national head coach Franco Smith says he wants to create a new DNA for Italian rugby.
Smith took over as Italy boss on an interim basis last November after Conor O’Shea’s departure, and was appointed permanently earlier this week, with his contract set to run beyond the next World Cup in France until 2024.
And with a six-strong team of coaching assistants, including fellow South Africans Marius Goosen and Quintin Kruger, the former Free State Cheetahs boss remains confident he can turn Italy into a competitive outfit.
Goosen will oversee defence with Giampiero De Carli in charge of forwards, Corrado Pilat as skills coach, Alessandro Troncon overseeing three-quarters and Kruger and Giovanni Sanguin as athletic trainers.
‘We’ll try to build a new DNA,’ Smith told a video-conference from his home in Bloemfontein.
‘Starting from three cornerstones – greater unpredictability, greater physicality and the ability to always give everything thanks to a high work ethic.
‘These are goals that must concern everyone from the under-eights right through to the national team. The Six Nations tournament that ended prematurely marked the beginning of a growth path which we will work on, together with the staff, franchises, the players.’
In Smith, the Italian rugby federation have chosen a coach who knows the country well, having won two titles as a player and two as a coach over a decade with club side Treviso.
Both Smith and Kruger, his assistant at the Free States Cheetahs who won the Currie Cup in 2016 and 2019, will arrive in Italy next week and face two weeks’ quarantine.
‘Being away and sitting on a chair frustrates me, because it takes time to make a boat change direction, as seen at the start of the tournament,’ said Smith.
‘But I am convinced that we have the means to do it. We will be competitive. I have known the reality of Italian rugby for 20 years, it is a source of great pride for me to face this challenge.’
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