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Embarrassment of riches at out-half won't hinder young guns' development, says Contepomi

‘They need to understand they need to play to their strength without compromising our system or the way Leinster wants to play.’

Johnny Sexton, Ross Byrne, Ciaran Frawley and Harry Byrne have all featured at out-half for Leinster this season.
Johnny Sexton, Ross Byrne, Ciaran Frawley and Harry Byrne have all featured at out-half for Leinster this season.
Image: INPHO

LEINSTER BACKS COACH Felipe Contepomi has moved to dismiss the notion that the province have too many out-halves in their first-team squad.

In addition to club captain Jonathan Sexton, the Byrne brothers – Ross and Harry – and the highly-rated Ciaran Frawley are options for the number 10 shirt in the blues’ line-up. Even allowing for the continued absence of Sexton through a knee injury, one of the remaining three candidates will miss out on matchday selection for the weekend Champions Cup assignment against Benetton.

However, Contepomi – who competed with Sexton for a starting berth during his own time as a Leinster player – insists it is a positive to have the quartet on their books.

ross-byrne-and-ciaran-frawley-during-the-war-up Ross Byrne and Ciaran Frawley. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“It’s never too many. To start with, the idea is to keep everyone fit and so on. Everyone wants to play. They can prove themselves in training. The good thing with the way we set the environment up, is everyone will have their opportunity. It’s about being ready, preparing yourself to take them,” the Argentinian explained in a press conference at Leinster HQ on Tuesday.

“I think the interesting thing is they all have their strength and they need to understand they need to play to their strength without compromising our system or the way Leinster wants to play. They have to understand how they are the most valuable for the team to function, exploding their strength.

Ross is a rugby brain. You can see it how he is looking for space and how he can find it. Frawley is athletic. He needs to exploit that, his way of running. Harry, he’s young now and free and likes to pass. Definitely he still has to learn a lot but he’s getting there. Johnny, what can you say? He is great in what he does. I think he is a good example of exploiting the best of his strengths.

jonathan-sexton-arrives-at-franklins-gardens Johnny Sexton arrives at Franklin's Gardens for Leinster's Champions Cup fixture with Northampton. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Thanks to 15 wins on the bounce during the current campaign – or 17 if you date back to the tail-end of last season – Leinster are rated by many as the in-form side in European club rugby. They have amassed 77 tries across the Pro14 and Champions Cup this term and Contepomi feels a strong variety in attack is the key behind this remarkable unbeaten run.

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“It’s great to have a team with that mentality to go out and play like that. It’s not just backs scoring or forwards scoring, it’s a big variety and that’s where we want to get.

If we need to score five tries from a maul, we’ll try to score them. If we have to score by counter or flowing rugby, we’ll do it as well. That’s what we want to be, an unpredictable team in terms of how you play against us.

Although they are a full 18 points clear of Benetton in the Pool A standings, Leinster have reason to be wary of the challenge that awaits them in Italy on Saturday afternoon. When the sides met at Stadio Monigo in the Pro14 at the end of September, the defending champions squeezed through on a 32-27 scoreline after playing the closing half-hour with an extra man.

jordan-larmour-with-ian-keatley Jordan Larmour with Benetton's Ian Keatley. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Their European pool clash on 16 November represented Leinster’s first competitive victory against the Azzurri outfit in three attempts at the RDS and they encountered considerable resistance on their way to claiming the spoils.

Contepomi is expecting another stern examination from Kieran Crowley’s charges, but is grateful Leinster have put themselves in such a strong position to secure top ranking for the knockout rounds.

“They are a tough team to play against and sometimes when you play against teams like that and you can’t break them, you become frustrated. It’s that type of thing, if you don’t take your chances early in the game Benetton is a team that won’t give up at all. It’s always a tough game but that’s the challenge we know we are facing this weekend.

“Having a position where we are already qualified and we know that if we perform properly, we have better chances of getting the result we want. We know it will go for 80 minutes because it’s always like that against Benetton.”

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