Speaking ahead of tonight’s Magners League game with Connacht, Leinster out-half Felipe Contepomi said that he was looking forward to another ‘special’ Interprovincial clash.
Contepomi, who holds the record for points in a single Magners League season (287), said: “When you play against a team like Connacht the important thing that you have to remember is that they are a passionate team that plays with great pride.
“Though they have some really talented individuals who we have to be wary of such as Gavin Duffy, Johnny O’Connor and Mel Deane, their real strength is in how they perform as a unit. They have increased their squad over the last two years and it’s clear that they are improving as a team.
So because of that, we will treat them with a lot of respect (on Friday). We must counter them as a unit, and because of their familiarity with the conditions at the Sportsground, we need to be aware of their attacking capabilities on their home ground.”
The Argentinian playmaker knows how much it means to Leinster fans for their side to beat their provincial rivals. He showed his class this season by kicking a crucial late conversion in the men in blue’s defeat of Munster in November and he also landed 19 points in Leinster’s victory over Ulster the following month.
“Interprovincials are special games to play in. It doesn’t matter if you’re first or last in the league, if you take your eye off the ball then you will struggle. That’s what makes the Magners League such a good competition to play in because all the teams are very evenly matched, so it always makes it hard going.
“It is a tough time of the year when so many players are away on international duty because you don’t have the same numbers of players involved for training, but thank God we have so many players involved with Ireland because that means that Leinster as a team are playing well,” Contepomi added.
Tonight’s top-versus-bottom encounter in Galway will end a run of two weeks without a game for the 30-year-old who has been an avid viewer of the Six Nations matches.
“When I don’t have a game I wouldn’t normally go mad planning my weekend around rugby, but I have been watching a lot of the Six Nations because it is a great tournament. The games are always competitive and there’s so much history to the competition and for as long as I can remember the Five Nations, as it was then, I have always had an interest in it.
“It’s also interesting to see the new rules that have been brought in this year in the Super 14, so in that respect it’s good to stay in touch with what is going on. But believe me, the last few weeks have not been a rest!
“It has been a long season (with the World Cup training camps last summer), but this year I have found that I am able to focus more on fitness work and physical improvement for the challenges ahead of us over the next few weeks.”
Contepomi added that Leinster, who are currently six points clear at the league’s summit, are determined to lift the Magners League title after going so close in recent seasons (third (2004/05), second (2005/06) and third (2006/07)).
“It is a crucial time for us and we want to nail the league after missing out on the final day of the last two seasons. We are targeting each game on an individual basis and though it has been a good break in terms of playing matches week in week out, we are working hard to stay at the top of the Magners League.”