Italy have parted with national team coach John Kirwan, the country's rugby federation has confirmed.
The New Zealander, who replaced fellow countryman Brad Johnstone in 2002, had been contracted to lead the Azzurri through to the end of the 2007 World Cup.
But after steering Italy to a victory over Wales in his first year in charge, and then Scotland the following season, Kirwan failed to guide the Azzurri to a win in this year's RBS 6 Nations and they duly finished with the wooden spoon.
A statement on the Italian Rugby Federation's official website, www.federugby.it, said: "The Italian Federation Rugby Council, of which Giancarlo Dondi is president, had a meeting at the Boscolo Hotel in Bologna and decided to rescind the contract of coach John Kirwan."
The decision by Italy was not unexpected, as Dondi had admitted after Italy's Six Nations campaign that Kirwan's position would have to be reviewed.
The Italian federation council had planned to meet earlier but the death of Pope John Paul II delayed proceedings.
Italy's captain Marco Bortolami said: "Personally, I'm very sad because he was a very good coach and a great human being.
"He started the project three years ago with us and it's disappointing to see him not be able to finish what he started.
"I also believe that my team-mates will be very surprised to see his departure, but life goes on.
"We have to wait for the new coach and will do our best to impress our new coach."
Italy have yet to announce who will replace Kirwan, who is a rumoured target of Premiership club Wasps.
The London outfit are looking for a director of rugby for next season as Warren Gatland is leaving for a job in New Zealand with Waikato.