Howley in the picture for Italian job
Wales backs coach Rob Howley is believed to be in the running to become Italy boss after the Rugby World Cup.
The 48-year-old will leave his Wales role along with Warren Gatland, Robin McBryde and Shaun Edwards after 12 years in the coaching team.
Current Italy head coach Conor O’Shea has a contract that runs until June 2020.
There is no agreed deal between Howley and Italy and he is solely concentrating on Wales’ World Cup bid.
Reports in Italy suggest former Ireland full-back O’Shea could leave the post he has held since 2016 earlier than next year, possibly straight after the World Cup in Japan.
Former South Africa centre Franco Smith was linked with the Italy head coach role in May 2019.
The Italian Rugby Federation denied at the time it was looking for a successor to O’Shea and has now refused to comment on the possible appointment of Howley.
Smith is believed to be in line to replace Mike Catt as the attack coach when he leaves his role at Cheetahs.
|Wales World Cup fixtures – Pool D|
|Mon, 23 Sept: Wales v Georgia, City of Toyota Stadium, Toyota City (11:15 BST)|
|Sun, 29 Sept: Wales v Australia, Toyota Stadium, Tokyo (08:45 BST)|
|Wed, 9 Oct: Wales v Fiji, Oita Stadium, Oita (10:45 BST)|
|Sun, 13 Oct: Wales v Uruguay, Kumamoto Prefectural Athletic Stadium, Kumamoto City (09:15 BST)|
Howley has been part of Gatland’s backroom staff from the end of 2007 and Wales have since won three Grand Slams and four Six Nations titles.
He was in charge of Wales’ 2013 Six Nations success when Gatland was away on a British and Irish Lions head coach sabbatical.
Howley was also part of Gatland’s winning Lions coaching team in Australia in 2013 and the drawn series in New Zealand four years later.
Gatland will become the Chiefs head coach in New Zealand after he leaves Wales, before taking on the British and Irish Lions position for the 2021 summer tour of South Africa.
After the World Cup, McBryde will become the Leinster forwards coach, while Edwards is in line to be named as France’s defence coach.
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All pictures via Huw Evans Images.