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Kirwan's appointment welcomed

All Black legend John Kirwan has deepened his already close relationship with Italy by being named as coach of the country's national team.

Kirwan, who speaks Italian and has an Italian wife, was named on Friday to try and lift the Azzurri after two difficult years under the control of another Kiwi, Brad Johnstone.

Italy A coach Stefano Romagnoli was delighted with the appointment, saying Kirwan knew the country and had the right experience.

``I think it was the most logical choice. He has worked for us magnificently and his work was appreciated by everybody,'' he said.

``From when he started five or six months ago to now his job has been developing all the time and I'm very happy personally and for rugby lovers.''

Italy team manager Marco Bollesan also welcomed Kirwan to the post, saying: ``I am very happy, he is a very good friend of mine. He is a good coach, he speaks Italian and he is married to an Italian woman.

``I am 100% sure he will do the job for us and that is good news ahead of the World Cup in Australia. He will have all the time he needs to do the job.''

Kirwan, 37, was an assistant to Johnstone, who has had a running battle with Italian media this year after quelling a players' revolt just before the Six Nations defeat to Wales on April 8.

The Azzurri won only five of their 27 matches under Johnstone and lost all five of this year's Six Nations matches to finish bottom of the standings.

It became clear earlier this week that Johnstone was on the way out.

The FIR contacted former France coach Pierre Berbizier and ex-South Africa boss Nick Mallett to apply for the post, but ultimately it was Kirwan who won the job.

The former winger boasts a formidable playing record.

His tally of 35 tries in 63 Tests makes him the third highest try scorer in All Black history, and he played a key role in winning the first World Cup in 1987.

One of his tries in that tournament has entered New Zealand rugby folklore - dashing the length of the field to score against Italy.

He has played several seasons in Italian club rugby, and also spent two years in rugby league in 1995 and 1996 with the Auckland Warriors, scoring 13 tries, before launching into his coaching career.

Kirwan was assistant coach with the Auckland Blues in the Super 12 in 2001, but the team finished second from bottom.

That was followed by his move back to Italy, where he acted as backs coach to Johnstone.