Zebre head coach Michael Bradley insists that anyone involved in the game can see the great job Conor O’Shea is doing with Italy as the Azzurri continue their journey in search of a Six Nations win.
It is now 1,454 days since Italy last tasted victory in the competition, a 22-19 win in Murrayfield four years ago, and the reigning Six Nations champions visit Rome on Sunday hotly fancied to make two successive wins after the opening day defeat to England.
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O’Shea is embarking on his third Six Nations campaign and while there has been a focus on improving structures, the fortunes of the national team remains a cause for concern.
Victory over Georgia was a welcome relief last November, but they are once again facing an uphill task to avoid the dreaded Wooden Spoon.
Former Ireland international Bradley is at the coal face of Italian rugby with Zebre.
"It’s about patience and realising the talent that is in the country and getting into Six Nations level as quickly as possible through the system," he told the RTÉ Rugby podcast.
"There is a bit of politicking to be done, but that’s not unusual when a country is in a period of growth."
How does he assess O’Shea’s contribution to Italian rugby?
"It’s not easy and he’s doing a fantastic job at the moment"
"When Italy streamlines its pathway to the Six Nations, you’ll see a progressive improvement in the results, a more positive environment to play rugby. Treviso and Zebre will benefit from that. That’s the direction that Conor is taking," said Bradley.
"It’s not easy and he’s doing a fantastic job at the moment."
To the outsider perhaps, Italy appear to be in a similar position to where they were before O’Shea’s arrival, but what is the viewpoint within the country?
"It depends on who you talk to," said the former Munster scrum-half. "You have those who know and work in rugby circles and there is no question it is going in the correct direction and the foundations are in place. It is ready to move forward.
"I go back to the Irish system 15, 20 years ago. One or two decisions had to be made and then everything falls into line."
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