Milan - South African Franco Smith has been appointed interim head coach of Italy's rugby team for next year's Six Nations following Conor O'Shea's resignation, the Italian rugby federation (FIR) announced on Thursday.
O'Shea resigned from his role with immediate effect last Saturday. The 49-year-old Irishman's contract had been due to run through to the end of May 2020.
Former South African international Smith, who was the coach of the South African Cheetahs franchise, will be supported by Giampiero De Carli (forwards) and Marius Goosen (backs), with Pete Atkinson and Giovanni Sanguin coordinating physical preparation.
"The Federation will continue the process of defining the staff of the national team for the four-year period 2020-23, which will be in office starting from July 1, 2020 in view of the summer tour in the Americas," the FIR said in a statement.
Smith, 47, is no stranger to rugby in Italy, having coached Treviso for six years between 2007 and 2013 before taking over as coach of South African team The Cheetahs in 2015.
He was also assistant coach of South Africa under Allister Coetzee in 2017.
Italy open their Six Nations campaign against champions Wales on February 1 in Cardiff.
The last Italian victory in the tournament was against Scotland in Edinburgh in February 2015, while at home the Azzurri have not won since March 2013, when they beat Ireland in Rome.
O'Shea took over as Azzurri coach 2016 and lead them into the World Cup where they failed to progress past the pool stage.
They beat Namibia (47-22) and Canada (48-7) but their match against New Zealand was called off because of a typhoon and they suffered a heavy 49-3 defeat to eventual champions South Africa.
The former London Irish and Harlequins director of rugby has been linked with a role in the English RFU as this year's World Cup finalists build towards the 2023 tournament in France.