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Why Leinster are happy to promote from within in bid to replace senior stars, explains Contepomi



Young guns: Leinster’s Harry Byrne and Tommy O’Brien

Young guns: Leinster’s Harry Byrne and Tommy O’Brien

�INPHO/James Crombie

Felipe Contepomi

Felipe Contepomi

�INPHO/Morgan Treacy

Young guns: Leinster’s Harry Byrne and Tommy O’Brien

In any other squad, regardless of the sport, the loss of three vastly experienced international players would surely prompt a club to dip into the transfer market - or at the very least have a look at the potential out there.

When you add a handy squad player to that list, and then consider that Leinster will lose four senior backs ahead of next season, then their decision not to recruit from outside becomes all the more fascinating.

Over the last two summers, Leinster have signed just two backs - Cian Kelleher and Rowan Osborne, both of whom are home-grown players.

Despite the fact that Leo Cullen won't be able to call upon Rob Kearney, Fergus McFadden, Joe Tomane and Barry Daly for the 2020-21 campaign, the Leinster head coach made it clear from the outset that, for the second off-season running, he would mainly promote from within.

Although Harry Byrne and Tommy O'Brien are two very talented prospects, Leinster do look somewhat light in back-line reinforcements.

James Lowe has been a key player during the international windows over the last three years, but he will soon be unavailable for those crucial periods as he embarks on his Ireland career.

Lowe becoming Irish-qualified, coupled with Australia international Tomane's departure, in theory at least, means that Leinster have freed up two non-Irish qualified (NIQ) spots.

Any overseas signing has to be signed off by the IRFU, yet in Leinster's case it never even got to that stage because they are fully confident that they have enough resources to cope with the deluge of games that lie ahead in the coming months.

As one of the finest overseas signings that any of the four provinces have ever made, Felipe Contepomi is in a good position to judge that delicate balancing act.

Given the imminent squad departures, Contepomi could be forgiven if he knocked on Cullen's door and requested a couple of back-line signings, but Leinster's backs coach has been embedded in the province's culture for long enough to know how things work.

"It's not about bringing someone in," Contepomi insisted. "You have to bring in the right person. Sometimes it's hard to find the right person.

"I would like to have another Isa (Nacewa) and bring him in, but to go and get him is not easy.

"I'm really happy and comfortable with the squad and the young players who are developing. Even if they are young, they have experience, and they will have to step into those senior roles.

"And that's part of the dynamic of a team and a squad to stay high up for many years. It's a circle."

Even though their rivals, particularly Munster, have strengthened their squads considerably, Leinster are not at all fazed by what is going on outside their own four walls.

They may soon be losing a huge amount of experience, but the idea of looking at an NIQ replacement wasn't considered, according to Contepomi, who echoed Cullen.

"I don't think it works like that. To start with, it is only certain positions. If we are in need, we can go and get someone non-Irish into the squad. But also, as I said, it's not just about getting someone.

"We need to get the right person and sometimes it is hard to find the right person. In fairness, Leinster do a great job to start with, but also the schools and clubs," Contepomi added.

"I wouldn't be too worried. Sometimes the solution isn't out there, it's inside. Let's look at what is better for Leinster.

"If we have good enough people here and we are comfortable with it, why would we be looking for someone else on the outside?

"I understand maybe other clubs or provinces have got big names, but do we need them? I don't know. Maybe time will tell."

Leinster will continue to put their trust in their system, which is the envy of most clubs in the world.

Not freshening up their squad could be considered a gamble, but given Leinster's track record, it's a calculated risk they feel is worth taking.

However, as Contepomi warned, time will tell whether it was the right decision to make or not.

Belfast Telegraph