ROME (Reuters) - Italy coach Conor O'Shea has resigned with immediate effect six months before his contract was due to expire, the Italian Rugby Federation (FIR) has announced.
Irishman O'Shea, who has been linked in the media with a post in the England set-up, took charge of Azzurri in March 2016 and was contracted to stay in the job until the end of May 2020.
"I loved every minute I spent in Italy and I really believe in what we have done," O'Shea said in an FIR news release.
"We have started a process and generated a new, well-founded hope but I also believe that the end of the Rugby World Cup represents the best time for everyone to make changes."
Italy won nine and lost 31 of 40 tests under O'Shea, losing all of their Six Nations fixtures and failing to get out of their opening-round pool at the recently concluded World Cup.
The former Ireland fullback had a wider remit than just running the test side, however, and believes he has made good progress in setting up the structures to allow the Italian game to flourish.
"The youngsters who are coming in are joining a system that can only improve in the years to come if the right decisions continue to be made," O'Shea added.
"The job of all of us is to leave the shirt in a better place than the one in which we found it (and) I sincerely hope I have left the Italian rugby in a better position."
London's Daily Telegraph last month reported that O'Shea would be installed in a new post at England's Rugby Football Union (RFU) before the start of the 2020 Six Nations, working closely with head coach Eddie Jones.
"We are saddened by Conor's decision not to complete the journey as contractually intended," FIR President Alfredo Gavazzi said.
"We thank him for the commitment and passion with which he has performed his role and we wish him the best for the future."
(Writing by Nick Mulvenney in Sydney, Editing by Himani Sarkar)