Contepomi: I’d love to play in this side

Contepomi: I’d love to play in this side
Felipe Contepomi: ‘It’s not just backs scoring or forwards scoring, it’s a big variety.’

Take a quick look at the statistics of this year’s Heineken Champions Cup and the numbers almost paint a picture of the rugby Leinster are playing.

26 tries — more than any other team, 79 clean breaks — more than any other team, and 181 points — more than any other team (level with Clermont, also on 181).

They’re second (716) behind Toulouse (748) for carries, third (164) behind Racing (173) and Northampton (168) for defenders beaten and have gobbled up 2,523 metres to place second in the ‘metres made’ metric behind the dynamic Racing 92 (2,562).

They’re also rock bottom of the penalty goals (3) table (9 behind table toppers Munster) — a sure sign of a team that a) attacks at every turn, and b) doesn’t really need those pesky three pointers.

But what stands out to backs coach Felipe Contepomi? Not really any of the above, if you’re asking.

“Definitely, it’s great to have a team with that mentality to go out and play like that,” Contepomi said.

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.

“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. As much as Leinster see that part, 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.”

Only Toulouse (7), the only other side with a 100% record, have conceded fewer tries than Leinster (9) in the pool stages so far, but Leinster have outscored the French side by 54 points. It’s not just in Europe that Leinster have been dominant though, with their 51 tries in 10 Guinness PRO14 games far superior to any of the competition’s other teams.

They also boast the best defence in the league, with just 18 tries conceded, but it’s their home form — across all competitions — that stands out.

A win in Treviso on Saturday would guarantee them a home quarter-final at the RDS and then (should they progress) a semi-final in Aviva Stadium.

With an average score of 47 points in their eight home games this season, the value of a victory in Italy becomes ever more apparent.

“I’ve been lucky enough in the sides I’ve been involved in, but I would love to play now,” Contepomi said.

“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.

“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.”

Treviso’s large Italian contingent may see Saturday as a final audition ahead of the upcoming Six Nations, and they’re one of the few sides who have tasted victory over Leinster in recent seasons.

“I think first of all they are very passionate, very well-coached and they play very good rugby,” Contepomi explained.

They are full of internationals with some foreigners with great quality so they are a tough team to play against and sometimes when you play against teams like that and you can’t break them, you become frustrated.

"If you don’t take your chances early, they won’t give up at all. It’s always a tough game but that’s the challenge we know we are facing this weekend.”

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