Felipe Contepomi not writing rugby obit just yet

Mere weeks into the new season and rugby is already in crisis mode.

Felipe Contepomi not writing rugby obit just yet

By Brendan O’Brien

Mere weeks into the new season and rugby is already in crisis mode.

Debates about the wellbeing of the club and international games, and the question of player safety and responsibility, were already lapping at the shores before Agustin Pichot and Geordan Murphy waded neck-deep into both.

Pichot, an Argentina legend and current vice-chairman of World Rugby, has made it known that the future of the Test game is under threat and that restorative measures are needed from both a financial and a playing point of view.

Murphy’s beef was laid bare in the wake of his Leicester Tigers side’s loss to Wasps and the controversial red card for lock Will Spencer for his high tackle on Wasps’ Tommy Taylor during an eight-try affair in Coventry.

Felipe Contepomi appeared to be a man well-qualified to talk on both counts.

Another Puma legend, Leinster’s backs coach has both medical qualifications and experience behind him.

He claimed ignorance over Murphy’s assertion that the game has ‘gone soft’ but his opinions on health and safety were clear.

I don’t want to comment on his comments. It is his opinion. For what I think, rugby is a great sport and we need to keep it as safe as possible.

“We need to judge around the welfare of the players and if that is the way they are managing it, I don’t know, we’ll see later on.

“It’s physical enough. Players are getting stronger, faster, leaner. It’s even hard to find space on the pitch. I don’t know why he said.

“Maybe he has said a reason why. It is his comment. From my point of view, keep it as safe as possible. It is a great sport.”

That rugby is changing is obvious. So too the fact that the changes are polarising opinion.

What few argue with is the sense that rugby has become too cosy with physicality. Space is at a premium, players are bigger and faster than ever and the bulging fixtures calendar is asking many of them to put those bodies on the line far too often.

Contepomi agrees that a swing towards skill is the way to go.

It’s already getting that way. It’s not only about fighting or being physical. You need to be very skilful to find those spaces. Now, you can see stepping into full-backs or wingers. Maybe, it was unusual 20 years ago. Now, you see it.

“If I bring you all the 50 (Leinster) players, you might not be able to tell which position they are in because everyone looks the same.

“Twenty years ago, you would say, ‘that’s front five, middle five.’

“For me, rugby is going in the right direction.”

Can the same be said for the Test game?

Pichot’s public frustrations centred on stalled progress towards a global calendar. Amalgamating the June and November windows was one of the suggestions highlighted as a means to make the international game more meaningful.

It’s no surprise that an Argentinian would be pushing that agenda. When the Pumas pitched up in Dublin last November, it was for the last game of an 11-month season for many of their players and one that necessitated 50 long-haul flights and 30 games.

Yes, it’s something to review,” said Contepomi. “It’s the macro picture in rugby and that’s why there are (people) appointed to those positions in World Rugby HQ to make this sport more interesting and more reachable to everyone.

“Coaches, we are concerned about the schedule we are given and we try to give the best we can of the players in every game. That’s why science is so important, it’s not just about rugby. We see it here with players resting and coming and going. It’s a puzzle you always have to work at.”

Leinster’s is far from complicated right now.

No fresh injuries have been reported on the back of their 42-point defeat of Dragons on Saturday while Dan Leavy, who had minor shoulder surgery in the summer, is back training fully this week and available for selection.

Sean O’Brien is being “integrated” back into the rugby programme – though not yet ready to play — while there was no update on Jack McGrath’s knee problem.

All of the province’s other Ireland internationals have already featured in the PRO14 this term.

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