Wednesday 16 October 2019

Contepomi backs the Leinster way to keep delivering trophies

Leinster backs coach Felipe Contepomi giving instruction to Garry Ringrose at training. Photo: Sportsfile
Leinster backs coach Felipe Contepomi giving instruction to Garry Ringrose at training. Photo: Sportsfile

Rúaidhrí O'Connor

Felipe Contepomi may come from a place 11,000km away, yet there is no one better placed to understand and retain Leinster's sense of identity.

That identity has evolved in the decade and a half since the Argentinean out-half arrived from Bristol to help transform European rugby's great underachievers into a winning machine.

He was a driving force when Leinster ended their long wait for a trophy by claiming the Celtic League in 2008, a victory secured by a comprehensive win over the Newport Gwent Dragons at the RDS in the days before this tournament had a grand final at the end of it all.

Contepomi wore the No 12 jersey that day, with young Johnny Sexton at out-half as they ran out comprehensive 41-8 winners.


It was the first of nine trophies in 11 seasons of near-consistent excellence. If they win on Saturday, they will have managed silverware in nine of the last 12 years.

Now assistant to Leo Cullen and in the final week of his first season coaching with the province, Contepomi's focus is on the Guinness PRO14 final against Glasgow Warriors at Celtic Park.

Although Stuart Lancaster has a strong influence on all sides of the ball at the province's UCD training centre, Contepomi has been running the attack in conjunction with the English coach who is forging the current team's playing style.

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"There was no Grand Finals, but definitely it's a great memory," Contepomi said with a smile.

"When you're involved in professional or any high-performance sport you work and play to win silverware and that's what you want at the end of the day."

These days, Contepomi is all business as he hones in on beating Glasgow to keep the flow of silver coming into the organisation.

And, as he reiterates, it is important to keep doing it in the Leinster way which was on show at the RDS last Saturday as the men in blue produced some excellent attacking rugby to beat Munster.

Both teams were well-matched, but it was the hosts who had the better attacking shape and more accurate execution when it mattered most.

And the win showed how much they've evolved, particularly when all three members of the front-row combined for Seán Cronin's crucial try.

Dave Rennie's Glasgow attack is widely praised, but Leinster delivered 12 more tries over the course of the 21-game regular season.

While both teams are known for their ability to score, Contepomi says there's a lot more to it than just a pretty-looking attacking shape.

"Leinster are well known for playing good, flowing rugby but I think we need to make sure that we have the proper balance of high-pressure rugby in terms of… these are finals you know?" he said.

"It all goes up one level when you get into finals rugby and definitely we would like to have a lot of opportunities, but it all starts in small little details of getting the set-piece correct and then making sure we got into our shape on what we practise, moving parts and moving quickly off the ball so that we get into spaces where we want to and then if we can attack.

"But there's a lot of other things to put in place first to be able pass and play that flow rugby.

"There's a lot of things that you'd like and also the opposition will be with more intensity and put more pressure and so it's hard to find space but I think you have to find the moments and when the moments come, take the opportunities."

Glasgow are a team he respects, coached by the widely respected Rennie who he faced in Super Rugby when involved with the Jaguares.

"They are a very, very good side. They can turn around situations in the blink of an eye," Contepomi said. "They can turn defensive situations into attack with two, three passes; they have very good individuals as well and they are very well-coached. They're a very, very solid team.

"I think it all starts up front, always. Definitely, they have speed and quality in the back three and we'll have our strategy.

"It's more about a whole performance and when you get into finals rugby or into a final, it's a sequence of small moments."

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