The Italian Rugby Federation (FIR) has dismissed an announcement from the Free State Cheetahs who claimed that their director of rugby Franco Smith is to become Italy head coach from 1 January 2020. 

The federation released the statement this evening to clarify the current situation, where they claim 'that no recruitment process' is in progress.

The Italians remain unclear whether Conor O'Shea will remain with the Azzuri in some capacity. 

The former Ireland full-back was appointed Italy coach in 2016 after a long and successful stint in charge of Harlequins. 

In his first year in the job, he coached Italy to a famous win over South Africa and has overseen an improvement in Italy's fortunes at regional and club level. 

The statement read: "The Italian Rugby Federation (FIR), following today’s unexpected Free State Cheetahs press release, clarifies that no recruitment process for the National Team Head Coach position is in place. 

"FIR also informs that interviews and negotiations are currently underway with international level coaches in order to integrate and strengthen the National Male Team coaching party."