“It’s not about Ronan O’Gara because he played for Munster” – Felipe Contepomi
For the cursory glance, the renewed Champions Cup rivalry between Jonathan Sexton and Ronan O’Gara is grabbing the headlines.
he competition between O’Gara and another of his former sporting adversaries, Felipe Contepomi, deserves just as much compelling attention.
While the infamous Croke Park picture from 2009 unfairly misinterpreted the former Ireland international’s years of solid friendship, there were at times genuine tensions between Contepomi and O’Gara in their playing days.
Still, it is highly unlikely that the Leinster assistant, who has confirmed his departure to take on a similar role at Argentina, would want to stumble down from his place in Marseille to butt shoulders with the GAA-style La Rochelle manager roam the sidelines during games.
The work of the respective trainers starts this week as they plan for this important occasion at the end of this month; In Contepomi’s eyes, a fifth farewell star on the Leinster jersey replaces one-upmanship.
“For me, it’s not about Ronan O’Gara or me. It’s Leinster versus La Rochelle. That’s the perception, even the press sometimes phrased it like O’Gara-Contepomi when it was Munster-Leinster or Argentina-Ireland and so on. But for me it was important that two teams come together and that the teams are the most important.
“ROG is a great coach. He’s had a great career and I think he’s brought La Rochelle to a very good point.
“He has his tactics and his strategies and his philosophy and we have ours here. On that day, we’re going to try to impose our philosophy on theirs, and that’s a point.
“It’s not about O’Gara against Leinster because he played in Munster or is from Munster. It does not have anything to do with it.
“Those are the stories people want to hear, but for us it’s more about what we need to do to get that fifth star on our jersey.
“What we have to do, what we can control, how can we best prepare ourselves to play against a very good team, which is La Rochelle, who are in really good form and were in that situation last year.
“They just lost the final and beat us last year so it’s more about us and how we can best prepare.”
Sexton sat out that semi-final defeat in 2021, a decision he now regrets as he chases a fifth European title.
Thirteen years ago he burst into the sporting spotlight by replacing an injured Contepomi at Croke Park when his Leinster side swept away O’Gara’s Munster.
With Leinster entering a period of coaching uncertainty, some might envision Sexton joining this gilded holy trinity of half-geniuses in a tracksuit next year after his retirement.
“I don’t know,” says Contepomi ambiguously. “Everyone is different and it depends on what motivates you to do what you do, what the purpose is, why you do things.
“I don’t know, he might decide to train.
“Right now if you ask me, thank goodness he keeps playing. He’s playing brilliantly so I’d say he needs to focus at the moment on being fit and playing the rugby that he’s playing.
“And if he decides to retire, whenever he decides to retire, he’s going to have plenty of time to think about what he wants to do. If you ask me about rugby, he has a rugby brain, but that’s just a small part of coaching.
“For example, in my case in particular, I don’t have a teaching background, so I’ve tried very hard, especially in my last four years, on how to teach, how to transmit.
“I’ve been really researching and reading, and that’s just another small part. Your leadership skills, your soft skills, there are so many other things you need to learn.
“Definitely when we talk about rugby I’m happy to come in because he’s always challenging me with questions.
“If I say or do something or come up with an idea, he challenges me and then we discuss it. It’s great to have players like him,” concluded Contepomi.
https://www.independent.ie/sport/rugby/champions-cup/its-not-about-ronan-ogara-because-he-played-for-munster-felipe-contepomi-41656430.html “It’s not about Ronan O’Gara because he played for Munster” – Felipe Contepomi