The Italian rugby federation (FIR) confirmed that Franco Smith was appointed as the Azzurri's head coach permanently. It is believed Smith’s contract will run until after the 2023 Rugby World Cup.
Smith's appointment, who took over from Conor O’Shea on November 21 2019, was announced together with the appointments of Marius Goosen (assistant coach), Giampiero De Carli (forwards coach), Alessandro Troncon (backs coach) and Quintin Kruger and Giovanni Sanguin (physical preparation).
Smith's first coaching job was when he became the backline coach of the Cheetahs in 2006. After 18 months in that job, he returned to Italy to take over as head coach of his former side as a player, Treviso. He guided them to two National Championship of Excellence titles in 2008–2009 and in 2009–2010, as well as one Coppa Italia in 2010 and one Italian Supercup in 2009. He resigned in December 2013.
Upon his return to South Africa, he was re-appointed in his former role as backline coach of the Cheetahs. He was also appointed as the head coach of university side UFS Shimlas and he guided them to their first-ever Varsity Cup championship in his first season in charge of the side.
In May 2015, it was announced that he would take over as head coach of the Free State Cheetahs. A mere four days later, following the retirement of the Cheetah's Super Rugby team head coach Naka Drotské, Smith was also named as head coach of the franchise.
Smith left the Cheetahs after being named the interim coach of Italy in November 2019.