In an RTE radio interview shortly after the 2007 Rugby World Cup, Felipe Contepomi spoke affectionately of his Buenos Aires roots.
With five brothers, three sisters and an additional adopted family of three boys and a girl, the Contepomi household was, he revealed, never less than cluttered. Felipe's parents are both deeply religious people and his eldest brother is a priest who has committed his life to the poor of villas miserias, the city's so-called 'neighbourhoods of misery'.
Yet, another brother pursues the comparably decadent lifestyle of a music journalist. "We have everything in the family, you see," chuckled Felipe to Ryan Tubridy. "The Devil and God. I like to think I'm in the middle, but I know I'm no angel!"
We have no anecdotal evidence to suggest that observation had half a dozen Munster players slapping their thighs with laughter. But we'd wager a small bet that it at least triggered some cackles along the judicial benches of their back-row. Munster, you see, don't like Contepomi and he's not exactly smitten with them.
But they can't quite shake the habit of one another either.
For all the contrived provincialism of today's business at Croke Park, little real antagonism flies between the various Grand Slam team-mates. Munster-Leinster is a rivalry that invites much ballyhoo and social-class caricature. But, if there is a personal edge to this contest, it revolves around Contepomi. Or, maybe more particularly, the view of him in Munster.
Euphemism is the staple garnish of rugby talk and the expectation that Leinster's No 10 might get some 'special attention' from the Munster back row today is articulated with blithe, almost chuckling certainty. Short of dropping leaflets through Dublin 4 letter boxes, Munster could not be more transparent in their intentions.
They believe they can 'get to' Contepomi, thereby unzipping his Latin temper. And that temper is perhaps Leinster's greatest worry.
It spilled over, famously, in the '06 semi-final, the Argentinian imploding before the eyes of his team-mates. One recalled this week, "Felipe just lost it completely that day. He's an emotional guy. People were trying to calm him down, but there was no talking to him. You could see it in his eyes. It was as if there was nobody at home."
Contepomi's contribution to Leinster rugby has been immense, yet is it in danger of being defined by Munster's hold on his attention?
Four weeks ago, he played poorly against them in a Magners League contest at Thomond Park, missing simple kicks, moving with the edginess of a deer isolated in the jungle. The sight of a seemingly cowed Contepomi fed the perception of this rivalry bearing a heat that, perhaps, has begun to overwhelm him.
He is 31 now and headed for Toulon at the end of the season. Munster, we know, would be only too happy to draw a stark line under his Leinster career today. For, there is a sense that in their bubbling dislike of the Argentinian, they have -- perhaps -- also betrayed an unspoken fear.
Former Leinster prop Reggie Corrigan certainly suspects so. "No question they'll be targeting Felipe again," says Reggie. "But I think, deep down, Munster respect him. In some ways it's maybe an inverted compliment that they pay him so much attention. The guy is an incredible talent and I think they worry about him. That's why they're always looking at whatever little angles they can find to get at him.
"I don't think any of it will faze him too much. He loves Leinster, he loves Dublin, he got his degree here, his daughter was born here. I've no doubt he wants to leave on a high. I can't see him buckling under the pressure. Remember, he's played plenty of games against Munster when he has come out on top."
In Anthony Foley's autobiography, Axel, he writes scathingly of one, a Magners League game at the RDS on New Year's Eve '05 and, specifically, Contepomi's demeanour through the course of it.
The Argentinian scored two tries and had six successful kicks at goal in a wonderful individual performance. Yet, through Munster eyes, the Leinster out-half effectively goaded them that night. "Contepomi," writes Foley, "was gloating after their last try, running up to our supporters with his hand cupped behind his ear as if to say, 'What have you got to say about that?'
"That wasn't the only time he got up our noses that season. He's making a good living in Ireland. He should have minded his manners."
Two months before that game, Contepomi had been barracked by the Musgrave Park crowd to an extent that he believed contravened accepted etiquette. He also accused some of the Munster players of "a lack of respect", claiming that they were "shouting" as he lined up place kicks. Munster won 33-9. A slaughter.
Some months after the '06 Heineken Cup battle, Contepomi was sin-binned in another game against Munster, a touch-judge spotting him land a punch on Donncha O'Callaghan's chin. He claimed afterwards that O'Callaghan had caught him with an elbow, insisting, "you can take it once or twice, but not all the game."
This sequence, perhaps, offers a context to his slightly graceless response to Argentina's elimination of Ireland from the '07 World Cup. Contepomi claimed "sledging" (verbal abuse) from some of Ireland's Munster forwards in the Parc des Princes and was seen to sarcastically put his hand on the back of Ronan O'Gara's head.
Corrigan suggests that Contepomi's "emotions got the better of him".
"I know he annoyed a lot of fellas by patting Ronan so condescendingly after that game," he says. "It certainly wouldn't be my style. But I'm sure it was because of '06 and what he felt was a lot of unfair stuff that came his way after that game."
Within the Leinster camp, Contepomi is seen as a shy individual, not comfortably drawn to the spotlight. Yet he has a short fuse too. After the recent defeat at Thomond Park, where his kicking was substandard, it is known that he reacted with some disdain to Development Officer Richie Murphy's attempts to discuss the Argentinian's technique.
There is a view that Leinster's forwards actually stood up to Munster that evening, but the lack of control at pivot essentially derailed them.
Like most serious teams, Leinster have had a sports psychologist in close attendance as they prepare now for this season-defining game. Hardly surprising, he has been working especially closely with Contepomi. Yet, there was never a serious doubt that Michael Cheika would put anyone else at No 10. For Leinster to win, they always needed Contepomi at the console.
Daire Higgins, a qualified sports psychologist and a winger -- who has played at club level with some of the current Leinster team -- is in little doubt as to the kind of work being done with the Argentinian this week.
"Munster clearly feel they have found a way to rattle him," says Higgins. "So he knows he's going to
be a target. He's got to prepare himself for being wound up, both by the crowd and the opposition players. The key thing for him is to understand he has no control over that. He can only control himself.
"If you're trying to put one over the opposition, you're investing energy in something you don't have control of. It's like wasted energy. It's like the old Cus D'Amato line to Mike Tyson -- about all that pent-up anger -- it can either cook your food and keep your warm or it'll burn your house down.
"It depends on how you approach it. You can be a servant to it or the master. If Felipe is in the zone, he can be unstoppable."
Munster will, of course, do everything in their power today to stop him reaching that zone. In his autobiography, O'Gara suggests candidly that being on the wrong end of "sledging" is little more than an occupational hazard for the more gifted players in the game. He can speak with the authority of experience.
"You give it and you take it," writes O'Gara. "Contepomi is a talented guy and he had a good World Cup, but he can be fragile too. In the '06 Heineken Cup semi-final against Munster he cracked. When a player has that reputation other teams are going to twist his tail and see if he copes.
"We had to go after Contepomi. Get into his space, get into his head. No out-half likes to make tackles all day. It's draining and it's distracting. You want to be on the front foot, directing traffic. He got cranky after a while. Giving out. His kicking fell apart quickly and he didn't really get it back. We knew we had him."
When he wakes this morning, the faces of Alan Quinlan and Denis Leamy are sure to quickly come crowding Contepomi's thoughts. He will know that he faces a difficult evening in their company. Conversely, they will know that, potentially, he has the tools to hurt Munster. They will know, too, the depth of his motivation.
Yet, against Glasgow at the RDS last Saturday, he looked disinterested. It is some time now since he bossed a game for the province the way he did that storied day in Toulouse three years back. Quietly, some of his team-mates worry that the fire within may be waning.
His contract with Toulon is for four years at an estimated €400,000 per season. A qualified orthopedic surgeon, he will then return to Argentina to pursue a full-time career in medicine. His father, himself a surgeon now in his seventies, still works a six-day week. The Contepomis adopted their neighbours' four children when the parents were killed in an accident, yet Felipe has never made a distinction between the two threads of family.
"For me, they are the same," he says. "We call them brothers." He has, according to friends, plans some day to set up a clinic for the poor in Buenos Aires.
The influence of God in the family survives then. But will the Devil get one last day?