Rugby-Italy appoint former All Black Crowley as new head coach

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FILE PHOTO: Canada v Romania - IRB Rugby World Cup 2015 Pool D

(Reuters) - Former New Zealand international Kieran Crowley has replaced Franco Smith as Italy's rugby coach, the country's Rugby Federation said on Wednesday.

A former fullback who was part of the All Blacks' World Cup-winning squad in 1987, Crowley has spent the last five seasons coaching Italian club Benetton.

The 59-year-old previously coached at the international level with Canada from 2008 to 2016.

"In these five years with Benetton Rugby, I've been able to learn and understand the country and its rugby culture, an understanding which I cannot wait to develop as head coach of the national team," Crowley said in a statement.

"We have a generation of talented young people who have recently entered the international test scene and PRO14 who have all the qualities to constitute... the backbone of Italy."

Smith, who took charge of Italy after the 2019 World Cup, will take over as the head of high performance in Italian rugby.

Italy have finished last in the Six Nations for six consecutive years without winning a single game.

(Reporting by Hritika Sharma in Hyderabad; Editing by Christian Radnedge)