– Sean Farrell reports from the Sportsground.
PAT LAM WAS only able to add two of his four winter recruits to his European squad, but even players not involved in the matchday 23 have helped to make the Sportsground a much happier place this week.
The Pro12 champions have been plagued by injuries in recent weeks, but the addition of Tom Farrell, Steve Crosbie and Pete McCabe last week (plus John Andress in December) have at least allowed Lam put a proper training session together. A return to normality which paved the way for today’s 66 – 21 hammering of Zebre in the Champions Cup.
“We need to have a good week this week,” Lam said after opening his post-match interview by issuing a stern critique of his defence.
“I could see some of the things we’ve worked on coming through there. It certainly helps (compared to) guys running on the field without training in the week.”
The Samoan added: “you can’t underestimate the work that Steve Crosbie and Tom Farrell and Pete McCabe and John Andress do. It was ridiculous, the unit sessions with forwards and guys playing out of position. To have some quality in those sessions has been good.”
The bonus point win means Connacht will need to win in Toulouse (who are taking on Wasps at the time of writing) to advance to the quarter-finals. It was a tall order in 2013 and it’s still a huge task facing the western province. But as long as this grooup can train together, they will believe they can beat anyone.
Lam celebrates Connacht’s win away to Toulouse in 2013. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO
“I’m not interested in any calculations: we do our work, prepare and do whatever it takes to win the game. Of course we’re aware of other scenarios, but we’ve got to have a mindset, not about bonus points or anything else. We’ve got to prepare going in to probably the biggest game of Connacht’s history.
“If we do that during the week, prepare well … we have a plan and we have a good eight-day turnaround to get some recovery done. ..
“(The aim is) we get on that plane with confidence of a really good week and that everyone has trained.”
John Cooney scores one of Connacht’s 10 tries. Source: James Crombie/INPHO
The week’s preparation will begin with Lam pointing out his team’s defensive lapses that allowed Zebre take an early 7 – 14 advantage before adding a third try in the second half.
“Our goal was to get to five (points) and we did that, but pretty disappointed with our defence,” Lam said with gritted teeth.
“We had a goal about not letting them cross the line and we obviously failed to achieve that. I wasn’t happy at half-time.
“The way we they got the possession in the first half and the way we defended was a reminder of what’s happened in the last few games. Little moments have killed us.
“We still have work to do, but put in to perspective it’s all in our control If we want to get in, we win. We don’t have to worry about anyone else .”
‘I feel like I can relate to Munster. I think I’ve got that connection’Connacht philosophy on full display as they carve up Zebre for 10-try win