Felipe Contepomi, Bernard Jackman and Jamie Heaslip celebrate the Magners League win in 2008. ©INPHO/James Crombie
Coach J

Jackman loving life at Grenoble but cursing his old friend Contepomi

The former Leinster hooker has targeted Top 14 survival, and taking some big scalps, this season.

A 10-POINT SWING in the space of three minutes gave FC Grenoble Rugby hope of an Amlin Challenge Cup upset against French giants Stade Francais.

Bernard Jackman, forwards coach at the Top 14 newcomers, watched from the sidelines as Sergio Parisse drove Stade up the field and in a position to snatch a win.

The pack, Jackman’s men, defended desperately but conceded a kickable penalty. The coach’s old Leinster teammate, Felipe Contepomi stepped up.

The Tullow native takes up the running, “Felipe’s kick hit the post but we knocked it on under our own posts. From the scrum they got another penalty, right in front, and kicked it.”

So much for friendship.

There are no hard feelings from the former Leinster and Ireland hooker. “Felipe is still a class act,” Jackman told “It was good to catch up after the game.

“His family are coming down (to Grenoble) soon. Our kids are around the same age and our wives are good friends.”

Coffee with Stan and French classes

Jackman found time, on the Sunday after the Stade defeat, to meet up with his former front row colleague Stan Wright, who missed the game through injury, for a coffee at Gare de Lyon.

Taking regular French classes and meeting up with familiar faces like Wright and Contepomi has helped Coach J (our name, not his) settle in France.

“It’s incredibly hard to get into coaching in France,” he said.

“You have Vern Cotter (Clermont Auvergne) and Jack Isaac (Biarritz) have been coaching here for a while. There is only myself and Joe Worsley, who came in with Raphael Ibanez, over here.

“Then you have Jeremy Davidson, of course, coaching in D2.”

It also helps to have an Irish captain at Grenoble – former Connacht player Andrew Farley, who Jackman says vouched for him when the coaching job came up.

“He has been captain of every side he’s been in. It was great for him that he led Grenoble to the top division.”

Jackman celebrates with Gordon D’Arcy after Leinster defeated Munster in the Heineken Cup semi-final in 2009. (Julien Behal/PA Wire)

Tightening up the screws

For a man who has been coaching since he was 23, taking in clubs at Tullow, Newbridge, Coolmines and Clontarf, it was no surprise that Jackman would soon take up a top-flight post.

Jackman began his work with Grenoble last season as a forwards coaching consultant, combining his sessions with observations made from Ireland when he wasn’t on the training fields. He said:

Grenoble finished second in D2 and lost to fifth placed Bordeaux at home in the promotion playoff. The issue that day was there defence so that was the focus when I came in. I started off (last season) on an eight-week consultant contract but stayed longer.

“The understanding was that if we came up I’d come over. We won the league by 17 points.”

The goal for Grenoble is to follow the footsteps of big-spending Toulon and Racing Metro in staying up and establishing themselves as a Top 14 side. The budget is smaller, he says, but the desire is strong.

Home wins over Mont-de-Marsan, Perpignan and Racing Metro mean the Top 14 newcomers are currently in fifth place and, tonight, Jackman’s team visit Stade Yves du Manoir to play Montpellier.

“(Montpellier) are led by Fabien Galthie, who is very highly thought of as a coach, and their pack should be stronger now that the Rugby Championship is over and their Argentinean players are back.”

A sell-out crowd will watch the action unfold. It is something Jackman is getting used to.

He remarked, “The passion is… The only thing I can compare it to is the love that we have (in Ireland) for the Heineken Cup.”

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