MILAN (AP) — After a year without a victory, Italy coach Conor O'Shea wants his players to focus on their performances rather than the team's results as they prepare for the 2019 World Cup.
Italy has not won a match since a memorable first-ever victory over South Africa last November. It hosts the Springboks again on Nov. 25, after games against Fiji and Argentina.
"My aim is always to remain focused on our performances," O'Shea said on Wednesday. "I am judged on results, I know that. But I don't want the lads to think about results, I want their focus to be on performances."
Italy lost all five of its matches in O'Shea's first Six Nations tournament as coach and also failed to win a game during the June tests.
However, those defeats included a narrow loss to Fiji after Ben Volavola kicked a dropped goal two minutes after the end of regulation time. The Azzurri also came close to upsetting Australia, trailing by only one point with four minutes remaining, before two late tries handed the Wallabies an unconvincing 40-27 victory.
"The road is still long but I see a bright future ahead of us," O'Shea said. "We have a good mix of enthusiastic young players with a lot of potential and the experience of players like Sergio Parisse.
"In the past two years we have carried out changes that we haven't done in 20 years. A lot of our problems are in our heads, the mentality of the players, but with younger players we have a different energy. Finally I see the light at the end of the tunnel."
Italy is in the toughest pool for the 2019 World Cup, with holder and three-time winner New Zealand and two-time champion South Africa.
"In the next months, in the next years, we will have a lot of difficult days and great days," O'Shea said. "But I'm convinced we're on the right path.
"Our depth in the squad is good now, not in all positions but in most ... Our group is a good one and I have lots of confidence in them and in our path."
Parisse, Italy's long-serving captain with a record 126 appearances in total, is relishing the new enthusiasm the youngsters have brought into the camp.
"I see a changed of mentality in the youngsters and that will bear fruit," Parisse said. "In the past, they were happy to narrowly lose. Now they're upset when they don't win."