Hard work continues for Conor O’Shea as Italy face another severe examination

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Conor O’Shea is ready for Italy’s “huge learning process” to continue when they tackle NatWest 6 Nations opponents Wales on Sunday.

The Azzurri look set to finish bottom of the Six Nations table for a 13th time in 19 seasons, having suffered three successive defeats ahead of this weekend’s Cardiff clash and then hosting Scotland next Saturday.

Italy v Wales – RBS 6 Nations – Stadio Olimpico
Italy boss Conor O’Shea knows his team face a tough task against Wales. (Adam Davy/PA)

They have had their moments this season, notably against England, and seen players like full-back Matteo Minnozzi and flanker Sebastian Negri leave an impressive mark on the tournament.

Ultimately, though, Italy have conceded 136 points and 18 tries across their three games, suggesting that another whitewash beckons.

“We have to perform to our maximum all the time and understand we will be under massive pressure,” O’Shea said.

“This is all part of a huge learning process with a huge group of young guys who will learn what’s needed. This isn’t the PRO14 – this is another level.

“I am really proud of the impact players like Matteo Minnozzi and Sebastian Negri and others have made during this championship.

“Piece by piece our job is fixing Italian rugby, and piece by piece we are going to put together a side which will learn, which will get better and which will get fitter.

“We will grow and grow. It isn’t easy, but if sport was easy then everybody would be able to do it.

“We will work on Sunday to see whether we can get ourselves into a position that an energy moment will go our way at the right time. And then you never know.”

Much has been made in some quarters of Wales head coach Warren Gatland making 10 changes for Italy’s visit, with flanker James Davies being handed a Test debut and centre Owen Watkin and hooker Elliot Dee featuring for the first time in a Six Nations starting XV.

Taulupe Faletau File Photo
Taulupe Faletau will captain Wales against Italy on Sunday. (Joe Giddens/PA)

O’Shea added: “It’s great when you have got the ability to bring in that quality.

“And I am looking forward to watching Elliott Dee play because I’ve watched him playing for the Dragons and I really like him as a player.

“They are an outstanding side. Gats is such an intelligent bloke. He’s made changes, but the spine of the team is so strong.

“The spine the whole way through has a massive amount of experience. They will have no issues.”

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