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Kirwan replaces Johnstone as Italy coach

The Italian Rugby Federation have appointed Kiwi John Kirwan as the new coach of the national side with former boss Brad Johnstone moving into a technical development role.

All Black great Kirwan, 37, has been acting as Johnstone's deputy this season and has impressed FIR officals with his analytical approach to the game.

Kirwan, a World Cup winner with the All Blacks in 1987 has the impressive record of scoring 35 tries in 63 caps for New Zealand and has served his coaching apprenticeship as assistant coach with the Blues Super 12 franchise in Auckland in 2001.

Fellow Kiwi Johnstone has paid the price for a lack of improvement from his side after they debuted in the Six Nations Championship with victory over Scotland. The Azzurri have failed to win a Championship game since.

Earlier this month Johnstone admitted he held little hope of remaining in his post claiming that he and his keenest supporter, rugby president Gian Carlo Dondi, were victims of political infighting.

The former All Black prop, who had 18 months left on his contract, said he would have liked to have taken Italy to the 2003 World Cup as he was signed to do, he had become increasingly fed up with the constant discussions by the Federation over his future.

"I have got bored that for the past 12 months they seem to have incessantly been discussing my future. The essence of it is a political campaign not only just against me, but against Federation president Dondi," he added.

Johnstone, who has made the Italian scrum into a top-class outfit by introducing players such as Carlo Checchinato and Mauro Bergamasco, said while Dondi understood it would take time to make Italy a winning outfit, the others wanted success immediately.

"He (Dondi) is a realist. He knows that there is a bigger global picture with regard to rugby and that Italy has a long way to go before they can establish themselves with the top sides.

"However there are others who started ripping into the team after the second match (29-12 home loss to Scotland) which made it bloody hard to motivate the players.

"There is a self destruct button in Italian rugby - I am not referring to the Federation - in which it is more like a soccer culture and that they don't understand it is no use ripping the team apart after a couple of defeats.

"I have blooded several 22-year-olds, who have just five years experience of playing rugby, and to my mind I want to stick with them because they have come on and in another 18 months who knows what they might have developed into," he added.