Kieran Crowley will take over as the head coach of Italy following a successful spell at Benetton Rugby.
The World Cup-winning All Black has been with Benetton since 2016 and now succeeds Franco Smith in charge of the Azzurri.
Crowley has plenty of international coaching experience, having served as a selector for the All Blacks from 2002 to 2003 as well as coaching New Zealand Under-19s to World Championship success in Ireland in 2007.
The following year he took over as coach of the Canadian national team, leading them to the Churchill Cup final on two occasions.
After eight years in charge of Canada, he moved to Italy to become the head coach of Benetton, whom he led to an historic first play-off appearance in the Guinness PRO14 in 2019, narrowly missing out on victory at Thomond Park against Munster.
He takes over from Smith, who will move into a new role as the head of high performance in Italy, overseeing rugby at every level.
As well as serving as the head coach, Crowley will also take charge of Italy’s attack in the new coaching set-up.
He will be joined by Andrea Moretti, from Zebre, who will be the forwards coach, while defence coach Marius Goosen, Corrado Pilat and Giovanni Sanguin will also work alongside Crowley.
Crowley said: “I’m honoured that the FIR have given me the opportunity to lead Italy to the next World Cup. In the five years with Benetton Rugby I’ve been able to learn and understand the country and it’s rugby culture, an understanding which I cannot wait to develop as head coach of the national team. We have a talented young generation who have recently had their chance at international level and in the PRO14 and have all the quality necessary to, along with the more experienced members of the squad with whom we will work, the spine of the Italy team for the next cycle.”
Crowley’s arrival follows the election of former Italy player Marzio Innocenti as president of the FIR, with the pair’s relationship going back many years.
Innocenti said: “Kieran and I met in 1987 when we were playing at the first Rugby World Cup when Italy played New Zealand in the opening game. That day he didn’t come on against us, but it was destiny that his path would cross with Italy again, nearly 40 years later. We have a lot of faith in him as a coach, and hold him in high esteem as a man, two key aspects to bring the national team back to the levels that our supporters and partners expect.”