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Contepomi heeding 'huge' Ulster lessons

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COPING: Leinster backs coach Felipe Contepomi

COPING: Leinster backs coach Felipe Contepomi

SPORTSFILE

COPING: Leinster backs coach Felipe Contepomi

If Johann van Graan felt a chill at around 4pm yesterday, it's because Leinster coach Felipe Contepomi was throwing some subtle shade in his direction.

Beneath the Friday night lights, Leinster beat Munster in what the former Argentina star disparagingly described as a "box-kick fest" and he is hoping for better from his team this Saturday when they take on Ulster with the Guinness PRO14 title on the line at the Aviva Stadium.

As Munster coach Van Graan pointed out on Friday, Leinster kicked almost as much as his side but they did so with the lead as they looked to control the game.

In contrast, the Reds were chasing the game but still opted for the percentage play more often than not.

It led to an ugly game, but Contepomi was delighted to come out on the right side of the result.

After watching Ulster beat Edinburgh to earn their place in the competition's delayed showpiece, he is looking for more from his players.

"We always can be better," he said.

"Even when we play good games, there is always big parts to improve.

"In terms of attack, yeah, sometimes there are games which are proposed in certain way. What we need to learn, to take is not to get dragged into a game of contestable box-kicks fest. There has to be more space.

"Actually, when you analyse the game, we didn't have much time with the ball but the time we had, we had some good attacks."

Indeed, Contepomi believes uncertainty around the breakdown laws is nudging teams towards a cautious approach with ball in hand.

"The new interpretation of the law, it's posing those questions of the risk-reward, how much you play, how much you can play," he said. "Sometimes I think we'll find more teams that come with tactics like Munster used against us last Friday.

"We can't control that, it's their tactics. What we can do is how we deal with those tactics a bit better and take teams to the comfort zone or where we feel more comfortable, as you say playing a more expansive sort of game.

"But if you see a normal game where you have 38 or 39 minutes ball in play and this game had 32 or 33, so it was a very stopped game and very chess-like.

"We need to learn to deal with them and sometimes you need to just go and win those games and keep preparing and performing for the type of game you want when you can impose your type of game."

Leinster will need to be better, Contepomi believes, because Ulster have what it takes to upset them. They only have to cast their minds back to March 2019 and the Heineken Champions Cup quarter-final at the same venue to know what can happen if Dan McFarland's side bring their A-game.

"Well, huge," he said of the lessons.

"That quarter-final, it was a hell of a game and they definitely are a much better team now even than they were that day."