Conor O'Shea joins RFU as Director of Performance Rugby
Conor O’Shea will join the Rugby Football Union (RFU) as Director of Performance Rugby next year.
O’Shea will be responsible for the leadership, management and strategic direction of the professional game in England. With the aim to support long-term sustainable success at international level, the 49 year-old will manage the England player, coaching and match officials pathways across men’s and women’s 15s and Sevens programmes.
The role, reporting to CEO Bill Sweeney, will also oversee performance rugby operations which include the management around the Professional Game Agreement, Greene King IPA Championship, Tyrrells Premier 15s, Rugby Players Association, medical governance and player welfare, sports science, anti-doping and competition frameworks.
He will work closely with England men’s head coach Eddie Jones, however the England team remains the responsibility of Jones who will continue to report directly to Sweeney.
O’Shea resigned this month as head coach of the Italy men’s team having coached the national side since 2016. The former Ireland international, with 35 caps to his name, was previously director of rugby at Harlequins. His side won the Challenge Cup in his first season (2010-11), were Premiership champions in 2012 and LV Cup winners in 2013.
He has previously worked at the RFU as director of regional academies between 2005 and 2008 before he joined the English Institute of Sport as national director for two years where he was able to strategically influence the sport science and medicine service offerings to Olympic and non-Olympic sports.
O’Shea said: “I am privileged and honoured and it is an incredible opportunity to join at a really exciting time for English rugby.
“I’ve spent the last four years in Italy, six years at Harlequins and before that 10 years at London Irish, so I feel I know the system pretty well. The good times, the bad times, winning things and being competitive, so I can relate to the people and challenges that happen within our system. I have learned a huge amount internationally in the last few years as well.
“There is an exciting vision at the RFU. It is not just about winning tomorrow, but also about sustaining success and winning long into the future. We can really look forward to rejuvenating and re-energising the performance pathway to help, support and push England rugby on. As well as our relationships with all stakeholders, it’s about women’s rugby, sevens, referees and coach development, which is absolutely fundamental.
“There has been some fantastic work done over a long period of time in these areas and there have been some challenges for various reasons as well. Now hopefully there is an opportunity to have stability, with the ability to invest and really push forward and challenge ourselves to become better. We are here to provide a sustainable winning environment and I hope I can play my part in creating that.”
Sweeney said: “Conor comes here with existing knowledge of how we operate. He has a good rounded balance of what it takes to be part of a high-performance system and he understands the world of the Premiership and the Six Nations so all of those are important credentials for us. His principle focus will be rebuilding the performance pathway and the coach development side.
“It is a wide-ranging role. We have our role to play in Team GB and the Olympics in Tokyo and the women’s game continues to go from strength-to-strength. He is responsible for making sure we continue that growth and we have a really good strategy in place for how we will compete in the women’s game at the highest level.
“Conor knows Eddie Jones very well and will be able to integrate with what is happening at the highest level on the elite side of our game and making sure we have a seamless approach to player and coach development will be key. He will also work closely with Premiership Rugby and the clubs to make sure we have the right relationships with them.
“There is a lot happening. We are just coming off a very successful Rugby World Cup, the youngest-ever team to compete in a World Cup final so it bodes really well for us going forward. We are looking forward to the Guinness Six Nations coming up now but that is part of a longer journey through to France in 2023. We look at that and the experience of Japan and that is something we can really build on.”
As a player O'Shea played fullback for Ireland between 1993-2000. He played for Lansdowne RFC and Leinster before moving to England to play for London Irish in 1995. He made 127 first-team appearances for the club, scoring 412 points and 62 tries.
O’Shea’s announcement follows confirmation this week that Alan Dickens has been appointed as the new England men U20s head coach and Jonathan Pendlebury as England men U18s head coach earlier this month.