Conor O’Shea has expressed his pride at leading Italy in the Rugby World Cup, after their campaign came to an end in Japan.
The impending arrival of Super Typhoon Hagibis meant that Italy’s final pool game against New Zealand on Saturday has been cancelled, ending the Azzurri’s hopes of reaching the quarter-finals.
That was understandably disappointing for O’Shea and his team, but he wrote on Instagram just how proud he was to have been able to take charge of the team since 2016.
He said: “Definitely not the way it was supposed to end in Japan but it has been a privilege to bring this group of men through an incredible experience at the Rugby World Cup.
“The journey this group of players is on is really special and we all hope we are contributing to leaving the jersey in a better place for those who come after.
“Pride of place in my rugby collection will be the jersey I got signed by Sergio Parisse, Leonardo Ghiraldini and Alessandro Zanni, three legends who have given everything they have for the Italian jersey.
“Thanks to all our friends, family and supporters for the sacrifices they have made to allow us to be here and we will be stronger for every day and every challenge we have faced. Thanks too to everyone in Japan.”
The Azzurri had started their competition with successive bonus-point victories over Namibia and Canada, before losing to South Africa last Friday.
As a result of the cancelled game against the All Blacks, they finish Pool B in third place, securing their place in the 2023 World Cup in France.
Italy will now return home with the next time the national team come together being in preparation for the 2020 Guinness Six Nations.
The Azzurri kick off that campaign against Grand Slam champions Wales in Cardiff, before a trip to Paris in round two.