The Counter Ruck: The Italian Job with Felipe Contepomi and Gordon D’Arcy

Italy are looking to add to their solitary Six Nations victory over Ireland

Listen | 26:35

Former Leinster out-half and current Argentina head coach Felipe Contepomi joins his old teammate Gordon D’Arcy on today’s podcast.

Italy’s new head coach, Gonzalo Quesada, is a former teammate of Contepomi. The former Leinsterman tells us what to expect from his old friend as he prepares his Italian side for their clash with Ireland at the Aviva on Sunday afternoon.

Contepomi also discusses his time coaching Leinster’s trio of young out-halves and why he believes the province is right to spread game time between them, as well as how he has adapted to coaching given how much rugby has evolved from his playing days.

Contepomi believes Quesada will bring a “more pragmatic” style of rugby to his side.

Contepomi, who played with Quesada when they both were lining out for Los Pumas, says his fellow former 10 has a “significant challenge” ahead of him trying to bring success to Italy, but that he is a “very smart, meticulous coach” who is well-positioned to improve the Six Nations’ perennial wooden spoon-winners.

In previous years, Italy have developed a reputation as a side that loves to throw the ball wide while not kicking as often as other international teams. It is a style that has won them many admirers, but not many games. “He’ll be more pragmatic,” says Contepomi, speaking to The Counter Ruck, The Irish Times rugby podcast.

“He’ll try to get the players to make the right decision, when to go or when to say we’ll go and play down there.

“I know Gonzalo very well. He definitely would have studied Ireland quite well and he will know where to go and try attack them. For me he has a challenge, playing Ireland, one of the best, if not the best, team in the world.”

Now head coach of his country, Contepomi also explained how he has adapted to coaching in an era where rugby sees much more structure and scripting of plays than when he played.

“We were playing off the cuff without a framework really,” he says. “Now the right balance is to set up a framework for players to make good decisions. But you need the frame, because in a team sport with 15 players, if everyone is playing their own way it’s very difficult to co-ordinate or have cohesion between the players.

“From our days, playing off the cuff, the world went to the opposite, being completely structured. That’s where now you need to find the balance of giving the players a frame to play in and allowing them to make decisions and show their skills, their creativity.”

Produced by Declan Conlon and John Casey.

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