Franco Smith will take charge of Italy’s 2020 Guinness Six Nations campaign after being appointed as head coach on an interim basis.
Conor O’Shea left the role following the recent World Cup and former Benetton Rugby and Toyota Cheetahs coach Smith will now take the reins heading into the 2020 Championship.
The South African will be assisted by Giampiero De Carli (forwards) and Marius Goosen (backs), with Pete Atkinson and Giovanni Sanguin co-ordinating physical preparation.
And with Smith in temporary charge, the Italian Rugby Federation will continue their hunt for a long-term successor to O’Shea.
An FIR statement read: “The Federation will continue the process of defining the staff of the national team for the four-year period 2020-23, which will be in office starting from July 1, 2020 in view of the summer tour in the Americas.”
After a 14-year professional playing career that included spells with the Free State Cheetahs, the Bulls, Newport and Treviso – during which time he earned nine Springboks Test caps – Smith took charge of Benetton between 2007 and 2013.
He then returned home to South Africa to be an assistant coach with the Cheetahs, becoming head coach in 2015 and helping take them into the Guinness PRO14 following their departure from Super Rugby.
Remarkably, the 47-year-old led the Cheetahs to the Finals Series in their first season in the PRO14 but departed the role earlier this year.
He’ll now take charge of the Azzurri for the 2020 Championship, which begins against reigning Grand Slam champions Wales in Cardiff on February 1.