O'Shea rues 'horrible' end to Italy's World Cup campaign
Toyota City (Japan) (AFP)
Italy coach Conor O'Shea was left lamenting a "horrible" end to the Azzurri's World Cup campaign after their final pool match against New Zealand was called off because of Super Typhoon Hagibis.
Scrapping the game could spell the end for players like number eight Sergio Parisse and hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini and O'Shea said the decision was "really, really hard to take."
In an unprecedented move at a Rugby World Cup, organisers scrapped the matches between England and France and New Zealand and Italy -- with both fixtures in the path of the powerful typhoon.
While England and France both advance to the quarter-finals regardless, with two points each from a Pool C match now deemed a draw, Thursday's announcement ended Italy's slim hopes of reaching the last eight.
Admittedly, this would have at least required them to beat New Zealand for the first time -- and even that might not have been enough.
But O'Shea, who accepted officials had faced a "hard decision", voiced frustration that Italy would not at least get the chance in Toyota.
"I saw the players' reaction after training and it was horrible because these guys have given their lives to Italian rugby and their World Cup has ended on the training pitch, when it should be on the playing field," O'Shea told reporters at Italy's hotel.
"For the World Cup not to finish in front of the fans on the pitch, in front of the fans watching on TV in Italy, it is a hard day for all of us and difficult to put into words," he added.
O'Shea was particularly upset that Italy hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini had now been denied an on-field farewell to a Test career of over 100 caps before he retires.
"You're very emotional especially for Leonardo Ghiraldini, who missed his last chance to play in an Italy jersey and to hear that your international career is finished after training is tough to take," he said.
"I feel bad for Sergio and the whole squad."
Italy were thrashed 49-3 by South Africa earlier in the pool and few expected them to beat New Zealand.
But O'Shea said: "You never know what can happen on the pitch.
"We had the chance to qualify. I'm not saying we would have beaten them (the All Blacks), but you want to finish on the pitch.
"The match versus New Zealand wasn't the last match of our World Cup. It was the next challenge on our journey and that was our mentality."
© 2019 AFP