Rugby World Cup: Italy ‘devastated’ by exit, says coach Conor O’Shea


Conor O’Shea says his players were “emotional” after being told their World Cup had ended

Italy head coach Conor O’Shea says his side’s Rugby World Cup exit is “devastating” despite needing a “miracle match” to beat New Zealand.

The Azzurri had to beat the All Blacks in their final Pool B match to reach the quarter-finals, but the game was cancelled because of Typhoon Hagibis.

“We still had a chance and god knows what happens in sport,” he told BBC Radio 5 Live.

“It was emotional when we heard the news after training this morning.”

Italy hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini broke down in tears after learning he would not be playing in what would have been a farewell match for his country.

O’Shea added: “After all the sacrifices these guys have made for their country, to not be allowed to finish on the pitch is hard to take.

“Fourteen years giving everything [Ghiraldini], sometimes in a difficult cause when you don’t win all the games you want to.

“He’s spent six months rehabbing after injuring himself in the last game of the Six Nations, and spent months and time away from his family doing that rehab.

“He just missed out playing against Canada so I didn’t pick him against South Africa, but he was good to go.

“You don’t write your own script and everyone’s quite emotional today.”

However, the Irishman – who stepped down at Harlequins to take over as Italy coach in 2016 – said he understands “safety is paramount” with “one heck of a storm coming”.

“The Japanese authorities did not want people moving across the country given the severity of this storm,” he added.

“Could we have played a different day, could we have waited another couple of days?

“But you also have to trust that these people who have organised the event have exhausted every opportunity.”

Italy won both their opening games before losing to South Africa in their third game of the tournament.

And while victory over the defending champions would have sealed a first quarter-final appearance, the Azzurri have secured their highest points tally (12) at a World Cup after picking up two points from the 0-0 draw.

“It might have been the remotest of chances, but we were in a game that meant something,” said O’Shea.

“The All Blacks conceded 46 points against Australia two months ago when they lost a player to a red card. You don’t know what is going to happen on a rugby pitch.

“But the right decision was made, it was the decision we all knew was going to be made if this happened.”

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