The Kiwi replaces Franco Smith, who becomes head of high performance

Kieran Crowley was today named as the head coach of Italy, taking over from Franco Smith – the South African will move into a new role as Italy’s head of high performance, overseeing rugby at every level.

Crowley has been entrusted with leading Italy to the next Rugby World Cup and will be tasked with improving Italy’s dismal record in the Six Nations, with the Azzurri on a 32-match losing streak in the competition.

The Kiwi, who won the Rugby World Cup with New Zealand as a player, has been in charge of Benetton Treviso since 2016, taking them to a first-ever Pro14 play-off appearance in that time, in 2019. His time with the club followed eight years as the head coach of the Canada men’s national team.

The experienced coach will also take charge of Italy’s attack. Zebre’s Andrea Moretti will serve as his forwards coach, with defence coach Marius Goosen, Corrado Pilat and Giovanni Sanguin all in harness.

Of the appointment 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 its 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. Along with the more experienced members of the squad with whom we will work, they have all the quality necessary to form the spine of the Italy team for the next cycle.”

Crowley’s arrival follows the election of ex-Italy player Marzio Innocenti as FIR president.

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’ve 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.”

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