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Friday 17 January 2020

'That's what we want to be - an unpredictable team' - Contepomi delight as Leinster share the scoring load

‘I would love to play in this Leinster team,’ says former out-half and current backs coach Felipe Contepomi. Photo: Sportsfile
‘I would love to play in this Leinster team,’ says former out-half and current backs coach Felipe Contepomi. Photo: Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

As a player, Felipe Contepomi built his reputation on having the ability to turn a game on its head with his unpredictable nature.

As backs coach now, Contepomi must take great pride in the role that he has played in Leinster's perfect season, in which they have scored 77 tries in their 15 wins and picked up 11 from a possible 15 bonus points.

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It hasn't just been the sheer volume of tries that has pleased Contepomi however, he is equally delighted with the variety of scores the province have chalked up.

Take last Sunday's win over Lyon as an example - Leinster crossed the whitewash six times, including four from forwards with two added from winger Dave Kearney.

Spreading the load has been a common theme throughout this run, which sees the club on the verge of breaking their own record with a 16th consecutive victory away to Benetton in the Champions Cup on Saturday.

Opposition teams are struggling to cope with their fire-power simply because Leo Cullen's men have the weapons to cause damage all over the pitch.

Players are encouraged to get involved in heads-up rugby, best typified by Ross Byrne instinctively cross-kicking a penalty to create a try on the opposite touchline last weekend.

"Definitely, it's great to have a team with that mentality to go out and play like that," Contepomi remarked.

"Also, if we analyse the tries, we have a big variety - it's not just backs scoring or forwards scoring, it's a big variety and that's where we want to get.

Leinster’s Dave Kearney scores his side’s first try against Lyon at the RDS. Photo: Sportsfile

"If we need to score five tries from a maul, we'll try to score them. If we have to score by counter or flowing rugby, we'll do it as well.

"That's what we want to be - an unpredictable team, in terms of how you play against us.

"But for me, it's not only about rugby and scoring tries - it's about not conceding tries.

"It's the nice part of the statistics to see how many tries we score, for me we get most of our energy from our defence.

"The defence is what allows us to get the ball and have the ball and then to be able to score. It's important what we do without the ball and getting it back."

Leinster senior coach Stuart Lancaster's 'comfortable in chaos' theory has garnered plenty of plaudits, and one wonders how much a player with Contepomi's talent and flair would have thrived in this current team.

"I've been lucky enough in the sides I've been involved in," he reflected.

"I would love to play (in this team). Leinster still have the same mentality as when I was here.

"The Leinster philosophy, the 'way' of understanding rugby, is the one that pleases me. I'm not saying it's the right way, it's the one that pleases me.

"There's no right or wrong way, there are many different ways, it's the one I most like.

"When you see it now, I don't think of being able to play in this team - I'm thinking it's a great joy to watch them play, when you see the players doing what they do.

"If you train that way and it's replicated on game day, it's the best thing you can aspire to."

Contepomi has been working closely with Leinster's out-halves as well as the rest of the backs and although they have four quality 10s on their books, he was keen to praise their different strengths.

Ross Byrne looks likely to continue in the absence of Johnny Sexton in Treviso this weekend, but his younger brother Harry and Ciarán Frawley are also pushing for game-time.

"Thank God the four play better than I used to play," Contepomi smiled.

"I think the interesting thing is they all have their strength and they need to understand they need to play to their strength without compromising our system or the way Leinster wants to play.

"So they have to understand how they are the most valuable for the team to function, exposing their strength. You can see it.

"Ross has a rugby brain. You can see it (in) how he is looking for space and how he can find it.

"You saw the kick the other day when everyone was expecting him to kick to touch. He crossed it - try (scored) on the other side.

"Frawley is athletic. It's unbelievable, his athleticism. So he needs to exploit that, his way of running. He's big enough.

"And Harry, he's young now and free and likes to pass. But (he has)very good skills. Definitely he still has to learn a lot but he's getting there. We are lucky we have four good 10s. Well, Johnny what can you say? He is great in what he does. I think he is a good example of exploiting the best of his strengths."

Irish Independent

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