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Contepomi Wants ‘Fast Start’ To Leinster’s PRO14 Title Defence

Contepomi Wants ‘Fast Start’ To Leinster’s PRO14 Title Defence

With testing trips to Cardiff Blues and the Scarlets in the opening rounds of the GUINNESS PRO14, Felipe Contepomi knows Leinster need to hit the ground running when the 2018/19 season begins on Friday night.

Felipe Contepomi, the province’s former out-half and back-line general, returned to Leinster in a coaching capacity at the end of July, with two pre-season friendlies against Montauban and Newcastle Falcons giving him the opportunity to see the squad in action before the new campaign kicks off.

While disappointed with the 42-17 defeat to Newcastle last time out, Contepomi admitted: “I think the Newcastle game – playing against really tough opposition, they’re a really good team – was good for us. For our guys, we’ve been training hard and so on, but we didn’t have that ‘match fitness’ or match combinations that we needed. Newcastle was a great game to do that.

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“Also playing on the astro turf at Donnybrook, as we’ll play our first PRO14 game on the astro too in Cardiff this Friday. What we want is a fast start, we need to start well. We’ve had a good preparation towards this game and we need to start fast. There’s a lot of eagerness in the squad.

“When a competition starts it’s the nature of any competitor or professional player to compete for the points. It’s not a friendly game anymore. There’s points on the line. There’s a great buzz and we know the challenge we’re facing, it’s a tough challenge. Cardiff are also European champions, the Challenge Cup champions. We are up for it and are comfortable with where we’re at.”

The 41-year-old from Buenos Aires is back living and working in Dublin for the first time since leaving Leinster as a Heineken Cup champions back in 2009. Nine years on, he is enjoying his new role of backs coach and being part of the province’s drive to retain their PRO14 and Champions Cup crowns in 2019.

Eager for the team to show further improvements in the coming weeks and months, Contepomi added: “We’ve tried to bring new things into our starter plays and some other change of mentality to get Leinster to another level in certain areas. It has been really entertaining and good over these five weeks and we are getting to where we want to be.

“You have to respect times and the learning curves to bring new things into a team. It’s not about changing everything, it’s about bringing things in that can make us a better team on the back of last year’s double. We are a good team, but there’s always room to improve and that’s what we’re doing.”

Meanwhile, it has been confirmed that young flanker Will Connors, who was the fifth Academy player to be promoted to the senior squad ahead of the new season, will be unavailable for an extended spell after damaging his ACL against Newcastle.

Promising Academy out-half Ciaran Frawley suffered a wrist injury in the same game and has entered a rehabilitation programme. He will be out of action for the next few weeks, but Australian international Joe Tomane’s foot injury has cleared and he is due to be available for selection this week.

Noel Reid sustained a quad injury against Montauban and has come through a period of rehabilitation. He will return to rugby training this week, and there was positive news on Sean O’Brien and Dan Leavy who are both progressing well with their rehabilitation.

Garry Ringrose, who says ‘It’s great having Felipe’s set of eyes adding to the group’, has come through a period of rehabilitation following his foot injury and will return to rugby training this week, while the returning Josh van der Flier will take part in some of Leinster’s rugby sessions this week.