Volume 6, Number 1

March 2008

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‘Rugby gives you values: they aren’t written but they are for life’: Interview with
Felipe Contepomi

By Edmundo Murray 


FP: It was - and still is - difficult to be far from home. Of course we miss family and friends in Argentina. However professionalism wasn't new for me. I came from Bristol and even before that, as an amateur, I always played in a responsible and professional way. People should realise that, whether professionals or amateurs, we must respect and try to fulfil players' and supporters' expectations. 

EM: Unless you suffer an injury, you will be on the first Argentine team to play in Croke Park in November this year. What are your views on this? 

FP: I am aware of Croke Park's historical background and I understand its symbolic significance to the Irish, as well as its associations with national pride in Ireland. Indeed, playing there will be very important for me personally, especially now that I have so many friends here. This is a sport that gives you a lot of rewards. But more than anything else, rugby gives you values. They aren't written, but they are for life, and I wish to maintain them beyond the activity itself. 

Edmundo Murray

With Catalina
(Felipe Contepomi)


Felipe Contepomi, born on 20 August 1977 to Carlos Contepomi and María Elena Ferrante in San Isidro, Greater Buenos Aires, is an Argentine international (Pumas) rugby union outhalf and centre, who plays club rugby for Leinster in Ireland. 

Felipe was educated at the Irish Christian Brothers school, Cardenal Newman, in Bolougne, Buenos Aires, where he honed his rugby skills. His passion for rugby was inherited from his father, Carlos, a former Puma captain and coach and member of Buenos Aires Cricket and Rugby Club (Biei), who himself started playing rugby at Cardenal Newman.   

Initially Felipe began his rugby career as flanker, before switching to outhalf in the Junior Divisions, following in the footsteps of his father, who had also been an outhalf. In the Junior Divisons he was a member of a number teams that won various under-age competitions, including Under-15, 16 and 19. He also played rugby Sevens at under-age level. Following his return from the Under-19 World Cup, he joined Club Newman’s team, alongside his twin brother Manuel, making his debut against Deportiva Francesa. Following the completion of his secondary schooling he started medical school at the Universidad de Buenos Aires, whilst continuing to play amateur rugby for Newman. Among his achievements at senior amateur level were reaching the national club semi-finals in 1997 and a championship. He was appointed captain of the team in 2000. 

Enticed by his fellow Puma Agustín Pichot, he moved to the English West Country to play professional rugby with premiership team Bristol in 2001. In the 2001-2002 season Bristol finished the season with the most bonus points in the Zurich Premiership, and reached the final of the Zurich Championship at Twickenham, securing a place in the Heineken Cup for the 2002-2003 season. In the semi-final against Northampton, Felipe scored all 32 points. His tally for the season was 221 points. 

The following year, ownership problems caused by the pullout of an investor created a crisis at the club and Bristol were relegated. Following the 2003 Rugby World Cup, with offers from Leinster, and English and French clubs, he opted for Leinster as it allowed him to combine his professional career with the resumption of his medical studies. In his first two seasons at the club, Felipe alternated between outhalf and centre, playing a less influential role in the team. With the arrival of a new head coach Michael Cheika and assistant coach David Knox, Felipe became the indisputable outhalf. The 2005-2006 season was particularly memorable, with Leinster coming second in the Celtic League and reaching the semi-final of the European Heineken Cup. Felipe was the top points scorer in both competitions. He won the Irish Rugby Players Association ‘Best Rugby Player of the Year’ award for the 2005-2006 season, as well as the Leinster ‘Best Player of the Year’ award.

Since making his international debut for the Pumas against Chile in 1998, Felipe has played in three World Cups (1999, 2003 and 2007). He was one of the stars of the Argentine team during the 2007 Rugby World Cup, helping the team to beat Ireland and favourites France to reach the top of their pool and reach the quarter finals of the World Cup, subsequently winning the quarter-final against Scotland. In the third-place play-off against France where Argentina won 34-10, Felipe scored two tries, three conversions and one penalty. He was the second highest points scorer in the tournament, just behind Percy Montgomery of South Africa. Other international honours include the captaincy of the Pumas in their historic 25-25 draw against the British and Irish Lions in Cardiff in May 2005.    

In October 2007, he was one of five people short-listed for the ultimate accolade in the sport, the International Rugby Board (IRB) ‘Player of the Year Award’, along with team-mate Juan Martín Hernández. The award was eventually won by Bryan Habana of South Africa. In recognition of his outstanding performance both at Leinster and in the Rugby World Cup, he was awarded the ‘Guinness Rugby Writers' Player of The Year Award’ in Ireland. Not only on the sporting front was 2007 a year of achievement for Felipe, but also on the educational front, as he graduated with his medical degree from the Royal College of Surgeons. The Irish current affairs magazine Village named him as Person of the Year for 2007, not only for his accomplishments on the rugby field, but also for his achievement in qualifying in medicine at the same time as being a professional player.


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Copyright © Society for Irish Latin American Studies, 2008 

Online published: 12 March 2008
Edited: 07 May 2009

Murray, Edmundo, '"Rugby gives you values: they aren’t written but they are for life": Interview with Felipe Contepomi'
in "Irish Migration Studies in Latin America" 6:1 (March 2008), pp. 75-78. Available online  (www.irlandeses.org/imsla0803.htm), accessed .

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