|Photo UAR: Rodrigo Vergara|
Ma´a Nonu looks to tackle Felipe Contepomi at Rugby World Cup 2011
Sunday´s derby match in Paris between Stade Français and Racing Métro marked the final time that 35 year old Argentine international Felipe Contepomi will play a game of rugby in the French capital. With one round remaining Stade Français has no chance of making the play-off´s of the Top 14. It´s remaining regular season match is against Biarritz on May 04. Before then the Parisians will face Perpignan in the Semi Final of the Amlin Challenge Cup and if successful will take on the winner of Leinster v Biarritz at the RDS Stadium in Dublin in the 2013 Amlin Challenge Cup Final.
Contepomi played for Leinster from 2003-2009 winning both the Rabo Direct Pro 12 and the Heineken Cup. He is the all time leading points scorer for the Irish province and accomplished titles while training to become a doctor and starting his medical career in Dublin. His professional rugby career began in England in 1999 and he saw the club reach the final of what is now known as the Aviva Premiership as he formed a halves combination with Agustín Pichot at club level. For the past four years Contepomi has been playing in France, first for Toulon and since 2011 for Stade Français.
His final appearance at the Stade de France was highly positive from Contepomi from a team and personal perspective. Not only did Stade Français win but Contepomi was amongst friends and international colleagues including Martín Rodríguez Gurruchaga, Juan Martín Hernández, Juan Imhoff and Manuel Carizza. All four Pumas players are set to play in the Rugby Championship this year. It will be the second tournament for all of them and they could well be joined by Contepomi should headcoach Santiago Phelan select him.
Having been badly injured playing for Argentina against Wales in November Contepomi missed the majority of the current season and has only returned to the field recently. As such it is still the early season for Contepomi which is great news for Argentina as Phelan will again need to fill the void left by European based players in June. With England and Georgia visiting Argentina will not be able to field European based players players who will also play in the Rugby Championship. In 2012 this saw twenty-four players rested while a similar number should also miss out on the June tests this year. In the case of Contepomi he will be fully available for international duty and has declared himself available for Argentina in the Rugby Championship.
With Contepomi available the make-up of the Pumas side could be vastly different. It could spell bad news for some players in line for selection. Contepomi´s ability to play 10 or 12 makes him a serious contender to, at least, be on Argentina´s bench. Contepomi was Argentina´s starting inside centre against the All Blacks in Rugby World Cup 2011. He played opposite Ma´a Nonu and shut him down as it took over three quarters of the game for New Zealand to score its first try. Inside Contepomi was Santiago Fernández a player who remains in the frame but as an inside centre. With Gonzalo Tiesi fit again and Marcelo Bosch being used at inside centre last November Contepomi could well be used ahead of both Fernández and Rodríguez Gurruchaga with either him or Bosch starting. Given that Contepomi will turn 36 during the tournament it would be remarkable.
In making himself available Contepomi could well replicate the 2012 season of Rodrigo Roncero. The former Stade Français championship winning loosehead prop retired from all rugby after Argentina´s final match of the Rugby Championship, against Australia, in Rosario. Roncero played so well for Argentina in June that Graham Henry wanted him in the squad for the Rugby Championship. Having delayed his retirement Roncero went on to be one of the lerading props of the tournament. Similar things could await Contepomi in 2013. Like Contepomi, Roncero is a qualified doctor.