Felipe Contepomi: ‘You don’t have to be carried away by what people say’
Leinster backs coach is more interested in improving than listening to hype
Leinster backs coach Felipe Contepomi and Fergus McFadden (above) training in Donnybrook on September 17th Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho
It is not often these cosy chats hover around the glamorous and tomfoolery at Leinster.
A selection of fresh faces thrash Dragons scoring 59 points. A first year in the academy, teenage flanker Scott Penny scores too. Again.
Ospreys are humiliated with 52 points the previous week in a Pro 14 season in which Leinster have only twice failed to score less than 30 points.
The Barcelona of rugby then? Grandiose or a little too Ferrari with penthouse? Still, it has a pleasant ring to it.
“Well we have Messi, no?” replies Felipe Contepomi catching the light mood. “We have the best player in the world,” he adds as the conversation turns towards a place he doesn’t really want to go with Johnny Sexton. “I don’t like comparisons,” he says shutting that door.
It’s difficult to ignore the Leinster tempo at the moment. With Bath struggling in the Premiership and last week involved in a 7-7 arm wrestle with Sale, it’s worth not forgetting Leinster lost a European game by a point to Toulouse in France.
But then there was Wasps in the RDS and another 50 point match for Leinster. All those tries must seem so seductive and pleasing to a backs coach in his first year.
“I don’t read newspapers so it’s the first time I’ve heard it,” he says of the Barcelona bling. “But you don’t have to be carried away by what people say. So people can say whatever you want.
“They can bump you up or say you’re really bad if you don’t score or you don’t win games. It’s about your reality, knowing what you have to do to improve.
“So for me, people can say whatever they want. We think we know exactly where we have to improve.”
The former Argentina outhalf is wary of Leinster’s sparkle and with Bath’s form so flat, it makes even more sense to tread with caution when everyone else is hanging garlands on your door.
With Girvan Dempsey his opposite number in Bath, Contepomi also keeps a respectful distance not to draw the match into a game of personalities with one so close. He is mindful too that the Pro 14 is not the European Champions Cup but rejects any suggestion that the league competition is uneven in quality of the teams.
“No, definitely not, I think that Pro14 is a competition that has been improving, getting better and better every year,” says Contepomi.
“For me it’s not about result after result, it’s about performance and everyone speaks about Barcelona because of the amount of points that you score.
“I would put it the other way round. I would say that we’re very good because we defend very well. We don’t concede that many points. So the day that we don’t score 40 points, we’ll probably be able to win a game because we don’t concede that many.
“While there are other teams that score a lot of points, but they concede 30 points and the day that you don’t score 31 then you lose the game.”
Chance at Bath
Of course the Argentinean doctor is right. Leinster have conceded less points than any team in the league. Their 148 points from 10 matches is 51 points better than Conference A leaders Glasgow, who have conceded 199 points.
Although Toulouse top Leinster’s Pool 1 in the European Cup, only Saracens (13 points) and Racing (25 points) have a better defensive record than the Dublin based side, who are on 31 points.
“This is a question,” adds the 41 year old. “If you think that PRO14 is a bad competition, we had 45 minutes net of play. Go and check how many minutes they play in the Premiership. If it’s 30 minutes then it’s a good game.”
And that’s not as absurd as Barcelona. Although, Leinster have a chance to prove it wrong at Bath’s historic grounds on Saturday.