Rugby: Former All Blacks fullback Kieran Crowley takes reins of Italy

Former All Blacks fullback Kieran Crowley has been appointed head coach of the Italian national rugby team.

Crowley, who was the back-up No.15 for the 1987 World Cup champions, will take over from South African Franco Smith, who has held the role since 2019 and will now become head of high performance.

The former Canada coach has spent five seasons with Italian club Benetton.

"We have a generation of talented young people who have recently entered the international test scene," says Crowley.

"I've been able to learn and understand the country and its rugby culture, an understanding that I cannot wait to develop as head coach of the national team."

As a player, Crowley logged 200 games for Taranaki over 14 years and 35 for the All Blacks, returning as an injury replacement at the 1991 World Cup.

He coached Canada between 2008-16, including two World Cup tournaments, beating Tonga and drawing with Japan in 2011, but losing all four pool games at the 20-15 edition. 

Italy were scheduled to tour New Zealand in July, but cancelled the two-test visit, as the Europeans struggle to contain COVID-19. The Azzurri are also due to host the All Blacks in November.