Felipe Contepomi is confident that Tadhg Furlong will remain a Leinster player beyond the summer of 2022.
It was revealed yesterday that the Wexford tighthead had signed a new deal with the province and the IRFU but only for one more year and that will see his latest contract expire more than a year out from the 2023 World Cup.
Furlong is still only 28 and poised to tour for a second time with the British and Irish Lions this summer and it may well be that he has penned such a short agreement with a view to renegotiating down the line, when Covid isn’t savaging the union coffers.
The player himself is due to speak with the media in his role as a Vodafone ambassador this morning but Contepomi, an assistant coach with Leinster, described his new contract as “great news” for the province and one that gives him certainty in the short-term.
“It’s about making him comfortable in the environment,” said the Argentinian. “As a player, when you are comfortable and you think you are in the right environment, it’s very difficult to move. Everyone will have concerns. You want to have him sign a long-term deal, but it’s one-year, it’s better than none. I am pretty sure that if things get right on track, hopefully he will be longer with us.
“Every day he does the best for Leinster to succeed. He is very ingrained in that and Ireland, obviously. Hopefully he can stay for longer.”
Contepomi made the point that the club is “bigger than any player” but Furlong is one man they simply cannot afford to lose as they look to rebound from their latest failure to finish top of the pile in Europe with that semi-final loss to La Rochelle.
Another man signed up on a new one-year contract for next season is Jonathan Sexton.
Sexton has not played since coming off early in the Heineken Champions Cup win away to Exeter Chiefs last month and remains unavailable for this Friday’s Rainbow Cup game at home to Ulster. As timing goes, it was terrible.
Warren Gatland suggested that concerns over the veteran’s durability had been the root cause of his failure to make the 37-man Lions party. The player trained again yesterday and is, according to Contepomi “flying” fitness-wise.
And as for the durability argument?
“Well, there’s loads of players as well (in the Lions squad). It’s not that he’ll play the nine games, or all the games. I don’t know. Even if I agree or not it doesn’t make any difference.
It’s managing players and it’s what he can bring or not and you need to respect what selectors do. It’s very subjective.
“I mean, if you asked 10 coaches, you probably wouldn’t have the same 37 names on the 10 different sheets. So, I respect what the selectors want, maybe that’s the way they see it. The only one thing I can say is when I see every day, or even today, and Johnny is flying.”
As for Friday’s game, Leo Cullen’s side should have Caelan Doris finally available with the back row having recovered from a minor calf issue which prevented him from making his comeback to rugby against Munster in the Rainbow Cup opener three weeks ago.
Jimmy O’Brien is another player added to Leinster’s suite of options after recent hamstring issues though further assessment will be needed to see if Jamison-Gibson Park (hamstring) and Jack Conan (HIA) can take part.
Ciaran Frawley is definitely out, again, after injuring both his shoulder and a hamstring against Connacht last weekend. He joins a list of sidelined talent that includes, Rhys Ruddock, Harry Byrne, Will Connors, Dan Leavy and Sexton.