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Rugby | International Rugby

Felipe Contepomi © Gallo Images

Contepomi confronts Welsh 'everest' Roberts



Argentina veteran Felipe Contepomi is ready to go up against the man he has labelled rugby union's "Everest" when he faces opposing Wales centre Jamie Roberts at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium on Saturday.

The 35-year-old Contepomi has been recalled to test duty having missed the Pumas' inaugural southern hemisphere Rugby Championship campaign.

Now the Stade Francais playmaker, by no means a lightweight, will face the very embodiment of a 21st Century centre in Roberts and will be giving several inches in height and more than a few pounds in weight to the Cardiff midfielder.

"It's a huge challenge. It's like climbing Mount Everest," said Contepomi.

"Jamie is one of the best centres in Europe and one of, if not the best in the world.

"As a player you want to play against the best and to have that challenge on Saturday and I'm looking forward to it.

"He's a great guy and it's delightful to watch him play but it's not so good when he's in front of you.

"Wales have a lot of important players and we see them as a unit. But Jamie has that extra 'X factor'. He has that experience now but we're trying to analyse them as a unit. We're trying to develop our game more than thinking about Wales and want to be more offensive."

Argentina's opening match of a European tour that also includes tests against France and Ireland sees them returning to the scene of one of Contepomi's greatest triumphs in a Pumas jersey.

He is now the only survivor from the Argentina side that beat Wales 30-16 at the Millennium in 2001, contributing 25 points featuring a full set of scores (one try, one conversion, five penalties and a drop-goal).

It was a win that confirmed Argentina's emergence as a nation capable of challenging rugby union's established nations and Contepomi said: "It's one of the great memories of this team but I am the only survivor.

"For many of the players from that game, and every time we meet up to catch up, we always remember that game.

"It was one of our biggest wins away from home and gave us the confidence and mentality to look to win every game, no matter where.

"Wales is a rugby nation that we love, we've always been very in touch since the 1970s when we nearly beat them but lost in the last minute.

"It's one of the places you always want to play and I was so lucky to be part of the team that beat Wales at the Millennium Stadium.

"I remember the try I scored and enjoyed it. It was great but it was good for the team. The whole tour was great, that gave us the confidence to beat Scotland at Murrayfield."

Unlike many previous visits, where the team has only come together shortly before a tour, this time Argentina arrive with the bulk of their squad having been together for the new Rugby Championship.

However, Contepomi was cagey when asked about Argentina's chances of repeating their 2001 victory.

"We are looking forward to the challenge and are well prepared. Most of the players have been together for three and a half months in a tough tournament.

"It's much easier to come together, we're not starting from scratch like in the past. But you can be well prepared, the only thing that counts is that 80 minutes.

"We would love to beat Wales but it's important that we perform properly. We know we're playing a quality team, the team that has developed the most in the last two years."

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