Felipe Contepomi: ‘I want to help Leinster be the best in the world’

Leinster’s backs coach is positive about the challenge faced by the squad in South Africa

Leinster’s assistant coach Felipe Contepomi: ‘Definitely, I feel very happy with the philosophy in Leinster.’ Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Leinster’s assistant coach Felipe Contepomi: ‘Definitely, I feel very happy with the philosophy in Leinster.’ Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

 

During the course of a wide-ranging conversation, Leinster’s backs coach Felipe Contepomi came out with an inadvertent mission statement that he hopes will define his time with the province. “I’m here to give what I can to Leinster and make Leinster the best team in the world. That’s my aim, to help Leinster be the best team in the world.”

He won’t be alone hoping that his wish comes true. His influence since joining the coaching team during the summer can be seen in the nuances in some of the attacking patterns. It’s an evolving project and one that’ll be interesting to monitor this weekend when a 27-man Leinster squad travel to South Africa where they’ll face the Southern Kings on Sunday (12.45pm, Irish time).

Given the number of frontline Leinster players required by the national squad either in Chicago or those ticking over in Carton House, many of those who helped the province’s A side to win the Celtic Cup recently will be given an opportunity in the Guinness Pro14 fixture.

Contepomi takes a positive perspective on the impending challenge in South Africa, highlighting the opportunity that presents itself for a group of players that regularly train with the full squad, know the match patterns and crave the chance to offer their credentials in a match environment.

He cites the example of a couple of young players last season who accelerated their development to a point that they forced their way into consideration not just for Leinster but Joe Schmidt’s team. Contepomi said: “I wouldn’t put it as a hard thing to manage.

“It’s challenging, yeah, because you want to keep the same standards and levels and so on, but I see it more like a great opportunity rather than something to be afraid of or something bad. I see it as an opportunity for the players to keep developing; this is the time for them to come and step up.

“You see a James Ryan or a Jordan Larmour, it was only one year ago that they were given opportunities and they took them. Now they are big names in the Irish squad. For us we wish and we hope that we have more of those young players coming through. That’s why the system is working well in Leinster.”

Number 10 jersey

Contepomi, while acknowledging the absence of the frontline players, argues that the depth is there in the squad and that includes the number 10 jersey. “We still have some good outhalves here in Leinster with Noel [Reid], Ciaran [Frawley] and Harry [Byrne]; there is good depth.

“Obviously you always want to have Johnny [Sexton]. Ross [Byrne] is the next, who has been playing. I wouldn’t be worried about that. They know what we want and they have to go and execute it; that is a good challenge for them and for the team itself.”

It’s not just the players that have been challenged but the coaching staff. The former Pumas and Leinster outhalf continued: “I’m not trying to replicate something from Argentina to here. I’ve got my ideas and I think what’s more important, it’s not only your ideas, it’s where you are going.

Rugby is not rigid, it is mobile. So, it always keeps changing a few pieces

“You have to know the culture, the philosophy of rugby where you’re going and coaching. Definitely, I feel very happy with the philosophy in Leinster. I’ve always said I’ve been lucky with the coaches I had. From everyone I took positive things, obviously from some more than others. 

“I really cemented my idea of what I want from rugby here in Leinster when I was a player. [Michael] Cheika had a lot to do with it, [so too] Knoxy [David Knox], [Mike] Brewer and all of the coaches that I had in those times. The way of playing rugby that I feel the most is the Leinster way.

‘Learning experience’

“Then, obviously, there are things that you bring. For me, it is a great learning experience beside Leo [Cullen], Stuart [Lancaster], Fogs [John Fogarty]; I keep on learning here in this [environment]. And also, it’s not that I’m rigid on my ideas. You are flexible, so you are learning and can tweak things.

“Rugby is not rigid, it is mobile. So, it always keeps changing a few pieces. It’s just about being on top, learning, watching, taking and getting ideas from people.”

Meanwhile, Rob Kearney is a doubt for the November test series after sustaining a shoulder injury while on duty for Leinster against Benetton in Italy last Saturday. The fullback was immediately withdrawn on 46 minutes after shipping heavy contact in a tackle. Leinster confirmed that the fullback “will be further assessed by the IRFU medics this week”.  

The province also confirmed the disappointing news that Fergus McFadden will be out of action for four months after suffering a high-grade injury to his hamstring in training a fortnight ago. He had a surgical procedure over the weekend.

Dave Kearney returned to training having recovered from an adductor injury. The Leinster squad depart for South Africa on Wednesday afternoon.

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