Sport Rugby

Wednesday 21 March 2018

'Felipe despised Munster and all they stood for'

In his first year with Leinster, Felipe Contepomi's registration had been messed up and he was not eligible for the Heineken Cup, and in his second year Felipe and Deccie Kidney had each other to deal with -- and that was never going to be easy for either man.

As far as Deccie was concerned, it was anyone, but Contepomi. He was stuck in the seconds until Cheika came on the scene -- the two of them were made for one another.

Cheika loved Felipe's style and passion for the game. Actually, Cheika went slightly over the top in his admiration for Felipe and he made him captain, which was a fairly disastrous decision. Felipe was a genius, but there were days when he would be all over the place, getting involved with referees and caught up in situations which were nothing to do with him.

A Latin temperament was not tailor-made for the job of Leinster captain. Despite that, he was loved by everyone in our dressing-room.

He was a very special man and he would do anything to help out anybody, at any time. He was very sociable and very welcoming in his lovely house in Rathgar and, on top of everything else, he went about studying medicine, in a foreign language, during his time here and qualified from the Royal College of Surgeons.

He'd come into training in a shirt and tie and we were well used to seeing him rushing back to hospital afterwards. He was a real achiever and his ambition for himself and for Leinster was huge.

Denis Hickie spent some time travelling and told us some great stories of his time staying with the Contepomi family in Buenos Aires. He was staying with one of Felipe's brothers, but, every evening, the whole family would eat dinner at the family table with Felipe's parents. Every last member of the family was so proud of what they were doing in life.

They were all achievers: One was the head of MTV South America, while another was one of the top journalists in Argentina. In addition, Felipe's father had taken in the children of his Best Man, who had tragically died in a car crash with his wife and had left young sons and daughters.

Felipe had four or five half-brothers and sisters around the family table as well. Denis told us it was amazing watching and listening to them every single evening.

For Felipe, playing against Munster became extremely personal, perhaps far too personal for his own good. Ever since he had been treated to some sh***e about the Falklands War from some of the Munster fans at a game in Musgrave Park, Felipe felt that Munster and their supporters could never be forgiven. His view of Munster supporters was probably a bit extreme.

In terms of how he viewed the team, things were especially bitter between himself and O'Gara -- at least in Felipe's eyes. He saw himself as a far better player than ROG and he disliked the way Munster played the game of rugby.

He thought they lacked style. He thought the whole team, including ROG, spent all of their time hiding behind their pack and kicking the ball into corners. He deeply despised Munster and everything the team stood for.

Irish Independent

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