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'We will come back stronger after the break' – Felipe Contepomi fires warning shot to Leinster's rivals

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Leinster backs coach Felipe Contepomi can continue their strong form when rugby resumes after the lockdown. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Leinster backs coach Felipe Contepomi can continue their strong form when rugby resumes after the lockdown. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

Leinster backs coach Felipe Contepomi can continue their strong form when rugby resumes after the lockdown. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Leinster backs coach Felipe Contepomi has brushed off the suggestion that his side may struggle to regain the momentum they had built up before Covid-19 forced rugby to shut down.

Prior to the enforced break, Leinster had racked up a remarkable 21 wins on the bounce, which had them eyeing a European and domestic double.

Every team faces the same challenges in trying to pick themselves up and go again for the proposed PRO14 restart on the weekend of August 22, and although Leinster's rivals will see it as an opportunity to catch them cold, Contepomi painted the picture of a hugely motivated squad who are relishing the chance to return to action.

Leinster are currently in their third week of limited training since government restrictions were lifted. The squad will take two weeks off from this weekend before returning to their UCD base on July 27, when they hope to really ramp up preparations for the showdown with Munster, which is set to take place behind closed doors at the Aviva Stadium on August 22.

"We'd like to think we'll come back stronger from this time," Contepomi said this morning via a video press conference.

"I know momentum is very important in sport but it's about trying to get back that momentum.

"It's not something that was coincidental, we've been working and building up for the last few years to get that momentum and that type of game we're playing.

"Hopefully we can continue that when we get back to playing. We need to get back to that momentum, so it's a challenge, yes, but a welcome challenge."

The Leinster coaching staff have been hugely pleased with how their players used the lockdown period.

Johnny Sexton garnered plenty of attention on the back of a recent photograph which was taken of him in the gym, but Contepomi was quick to play down the idea that the Leinster and Ireland captain had actually piled on a huge amount of upper body mass.

"Don't always trust the photoshoots! They can make a chimpanzee look nice," Contepomi laughed.

"The guys have been working really, really hard during the lockdown.

"Some of these guys really got into it and when they came back for tests, they were great. We're very comfortable with how fit they are.

"Now it's about getting back into rugby and getting them used to the decision-making and the details and skills we have in rugby. Fitness-wise, they look really well.

"Having a three-month break for a professional player, it's a grace. They'll never get it again, hopefully, so in terms of recovering their body and so on, it's been great.

"They kept on doing fitness. So I know we are taking baby steps to go back to normality and playing rugby, but it was good for these first three weeks to have some change of directions.

"The first week was challenging because we couldn't even pass the ball, we couldn't use the ball, but the boys adapted well and we've been building up to getting to more normal.

"Hopefully when we come back from the break, we'll be able to play a more normal style of rugby. But these three weeks have been great."

Contepomi welcomed the recent news that 28 players have signed contract extensions with Leinster, as the Argentinian pointed to the inevitable selection headaches that will soon lie ahead once again.

"I think the squad is looking really good," Contepomi added.

"I'd rather have that headache. Take one paracetamol and it will go away.

"I'd rather (have) that than having the headache of not having choices to pick from. That competitiveness will bring the level up for young players, and keep senior players' level up. There are no places guaranteed in this squad, so it's a great challenge.

"For coaches, it's all you can ask for. You might have more difficult conversations but that's part of the job and it's welcome.

"I feel it's a great place where we are and hopefully the guys can push themselves to get the best out of themselves."

Online Editors