Leinster confirm departure of assistant coach Felipe Contepomi

Former Argentinian outhalf to return home to join Cheika’s Pumas coaching ticket

Leinster have confirmed that Felipe Contepomi is to leave the province at the end of the season to join Argentina as assistant coach to Michael Cheika.

Contepomi has played a key role, if a less celebrated one than Stuart Lancaster, as Leinster’s backs coach in the last four seasons. He is regarded as an excellent coach by the players, very calm in his approach compared to his playing days, very good on detail and innovative in devising launch plays.

Previously, in a nomadic playing career with Bristol, Leinster, Toulon, Stade Francais and Club Newman, Contepomi had his longest stint with Leinster over a period of six seasons from 2003 to 2009. The out-half cum centre played 116 times for Leinster and was their record points scorer with 1,225, which included 33 tries, until Johnny Sexton overtook that landmark.

He helped Leinster to a Celtic League title and although injured in the 26th minute of the seminal semi-final against Munster in 2009 at Croke Park and missed the final against Leicester, he also played an instrumental role in that breakthrough Heineken Champions Cup success under Cheika. He scored 64 points in seven games in that campaign, including a drop goal in the semi-final.

Contepomi will hope that his final campaign as Leinster backs coach will again yield a Heineken Champions Cup triumph, as well as a URC title to go with the three Pro14 triumphs in which he has been part of the coaching ticket.

Leo Cullen, a former teammate and captain in that 2009 triumph, said: “It’s been a privilege for everyone at Leinster Rugby to have had the opportunity to work with Felipe over the last four seasons. He is a great character to have around and has made a huge contribution to so many areas of the club.

“We were all excited at the thought of ‘getting Felipe back’ to coach the group and he has definitely lived up to our hopes. He is a great tactician, and I am sure he will go on to enjoy an outstanding coaching career.

“Of course, we will miss Felipe but everyone understands the opportunity to return to Argentina to take up an exciting new role, plus the draw of being closer to family. This day was always likely to come but for me, the memories are only good ones as we celebrate the successes we have shared. Hopefully, we can add to those by finishing this season as strongly as possible.

“On behalf of everyone at Leinster, I would like to wish Felipe, Sofia and the rest of the Contepomi family all the best for the future. They will always have the warmest of welcomes here in Dublin and who knows, maybe there will be a ‘third coming’ down the line!”

A hugely popular figure among Leinster supporters, during his time with the province he was also nominated for the IRB player of the year award in 2007 following stellar performances for club and country.

Internationally he won 87 caps for Argentina and was a key member of the team that finished third in the 2007 Rugby World Cup. In 2017, he was inducted into the World Rugby hall of fame and this news sees him return back home where he last worked in Buenos Aires with the Argentinian Rugby Union as head coach of the Argentina XV for 2017/18 and with the Jaguares in Super Rugby.

Speaking with leinsterrugby.ie, Contepomi said: “This is a brilliant opportunity for me and for my family to return home but I would like to say how thankful I am to Leo Cullen and to Leinster Rugby for the opportunity to come back to Leinster and to Dublin over the last few years.

“It was an easy decision to come back to the club and I have loved every minute of my time here working with Leo and all the coaches and backroom team. Of course, I would also like to thank all the players that I have had the privilege and the pleasure to work with. My time as a coach has only added to the warmth and the love I have for the club from my time here as a player.

“While there have been great moments on the field, it is the memories and the friendships made off the field that I will take with me.

“There is still of course a huge end to the season to come and I hope to finish the season strong before heading home.

“This is a proud moment for me and for my family. The opportunity and the challenge presented by Michael Cheika and the UAR is one that excites me and I very much look forward to continuing my coaching journey back home. To be able to coach your country is special. There is no higher honour as a coach and I look forward to getting started in due course.

“Dublin and Leinster have been very good to me as a player and as a coach, and I will forever be grateful for all that we have achieved together.

“But the time is right for me now to return home and I will leave with nothing but fond memories of a great club, great supporters and my home away from home.”

A statement by the province concluded: “Everyone in Leinster Rugby wishes Felipe the very best of luck with the move back home and thanks him for his time with the club.”

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