Friday 26 May 2017

Aki and Buckley blow as Lam eyes 'realistic' Pro12 glory

A knee injury has put Bundee Aki out of contention for Connacht Photo: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
A knee injury has put Bundee Aki out of contention for Connacht Photo: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

John Fallon

Connacht are targeting winning the Pro12 outright after resetting their goals for the remainder of the season.

And coach Pat Lam said it is not an unrealistic target, although it all depended on taking each game at a time and achieving exactly what they set out for them in those clashes.

Their best season in history has been dogged by injuries and they will face into the final hurdle without inspirational prop Denis Buckley and fiery centre Bundee Aki - perhaps their two best players of the season.

Lam said that having achieved their primary target of Champions Cup rugby next season with the 35-14 win over Munster, they held a squad meeting and reset their target for the remainder of the campaign.

"One of things we did once we got top six, we said that was the big goal. We signed that off and said right, like any good team or organisation or person you reset your goals," he said.

"We now know we have got a little season of five weeks, and two games. We asked every individual to write down the big goal now, and there's no doubt everyone's big goal is to win the Pro12.

"We can say that on the basis of where we have put ourselves now. Then we stepped that back and said how are we going to do that.

"The number one goal is getting to the semi-finals, we need one point out of this week. But history has shown that home semi (is vital). So we have got two games to get us a home semi, and then if we get then we back ourselves to get into the final, and then and then it's all about winning.

"It's become a realistic goal, we don't like to set goals that aren't realistic. A realistic goal at the start of the season was top six, but further work that we have done achieved the goal. That's our goal now."

Buckley, who suffered an ankle fracture in training on Friday, has been ruled out of this Friday's clash in Treviso and also the final home clash against champions Glasgow Warriors.

Aki is also ruled out of the trip to Treviso, with Lam hoping that he might recover for the Glasgow game as he battles to recover from a knee injury.

Irish prop Nathan White remains sidelined with concussion but Lam is boosted by the return of full-back Tiernan O'Halloran, out-half AJ MacGinty and back-rower Jake Heenan.

Irish Independent

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