‘My experience here has been unbelievable. I always will be grateful for Leinster and Leo Cullen’

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THERE’S NOT MANY job openings that would have tempted Felipe Contepomi to leave his “home away from home”, but the lure of returning to Argentina was always going to be too difficult to resist.

Yesterday Leinster confirmed that assistant coach Contepomi would leave his role at the end of the season to become part of Michael Cheika’s new Argentina coaching team.

The announcement won’t have come as a major shock, but Contepomi’s departure still represents a significant blow for Leinster. A popular figure among the playing group, the former Leinster out-half has played a key role in the province’s success since joining Cullen’s coaching ticket in 2018.

“My experience here in Leinster has been unbelievable,” Contepomi says.

I always say I am a lucky man in my whole career, my whole life until now. I have been lucky to play in some of the best teams in Europe, with some of the best players. And now coming to Leinster, I always will be grateful for Leinster and Leo Cullen to give me the opportunity to work with so many great people. I have learned so much from every single one of them.

“And especially from the coaches like Stuart (Lancaster, senior coach), Leo, Robin (McBryde, scrum coach), John (Fogarty, former scrum coach), Hugh (Hogan, former contact skills coach), Denis (Leamy, contact skills coach). I have learned from every single one… Emmett Farrell with his kicking strategy.

“It made me a better coach and not just rugby wise. It helped me in terms of leadership and teaching, what people call the soft skills. Learning how to deal with certain situations, how to keep everyone engaged, how to manage an environment that is so rich and healthy here.

“Having so many good players and trying to keep them engaged. You learn from everyone. So I’d like to think after four years I am a better coach than when I started here.”

Contepomi has worked with plenty of gifted players during his time with the province, with Johnny Sexton right at the top of the pile.

The Leinster captain was at his influential best in Saturday’s Heineken Champions Cup semi-final win over Toulouse, and Contepomi says he wouldn’t be surprised to see Sexton follow a similar path to his own and pursue a life in coaching when his playing career ends.

johnny-sexton
Sexton starred for Leinster in the semi-final win over Toulouse.


Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“Everyone is different and it depends on what motivates you to do what you do, what’s the purpose of why you do things. I don’t know, he might decide to go and coach,” Contepomi continues.

“Rugby-wise, he has a rugby brain so definitely (he could become a coach), but that’s only a small part of coaching.

“That’s one of the things I have most learned here. When you stop playing rugby and you play to a certain level, you like to think that you understand a fair bit of that. That’s only a small part of it, the X and Os are only a very small part. There are loads of other parts. For example, in my case in particular, I don’t have a background in teaching so I put a lot of effort, particularly in my last four years, into how to teach, how to transmit. I’ve been really researching and reading and that’s only another small part.

“Your leadership skills, your soft skills, there are so many other things that you need to learn.

Actually I love coming in because he (Sexton) always challenges me rugby-wise with questions. When I say something or do something or come with an idea, he challenges and then we discuss. It’s brilliant to have players like him. He’s not the only one. It happens most of the time that it is the 10s that challenge more, like Ross (Byrne) as well, they are the ones who think more and I love those sort of players.”
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Contepomi also provided a positive update on both Tadhg Furlong and James Lowe, stating the province are expecting both players to be fit for the Heineken Champions Cup final meeting with La Rochelle on 28 May.

Furlong limped off in the 17th minute of Saturday’s semi-final win over Toulouse with an ankle problem while Lowe picked up a shin injury in the dying moments of the game.

“They’re not available for this week but I would feel confident that they would both be fit to play next week,” Contepomi said.

“We are not overly concerned. Obviously they have a minor injury but we are not overly concerned about them. But we’ll see, you never know with this, you can have setbacks and the medics will know better probably at the end of the week, how they are progressing.”

Get instant updates on your province on The42 app. With Laya Healthcare, official health and wellbeing partner to Leinster, Munster and Connacht Rugby.

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