Connacht boss Pat Lam: Our season starts now and I expect a big improvement
Published 10/09/2016 | 02:30
Pat Lam is expecting a delayed reaction to Connacht's shaky Guinness Pro12 title defence after a Glasgow trouncing in front of their adoring faithful last weekend which he declared gruffly was "like a pre-season game".
While the Westerners have always maintained their primary focus is securing European qualification despite last season's heroics, another humbling Galway reverse could precipitate some inner soul-searching.
"I'm expecting a massive improvement this week," said Lam in the wake of last week's 41-5 filleting. "That was like a pre-season game.
"We are in season, there is no doubt. We have got a game under our belt. It was a tough game and it was an ideal game for us.
"Now we have got another team arriving who are in the same pain towards us - we hadn't beaten them in a long time but we beat them twice last year.
"Ospreys are a quality side and last year was a disappointment for them. They said it themselves. They expect to beat Connacht and we know that they will be coming hard at us.
"Ospreys will be another big challenge and will come here determined and confident after their win.
"It's been a tough week with a lot of honesty and learnings for us as a team. I have no doubt that with another game under our belt, we will see a big improvement."
With Caolan Blade and Cian Kelleher unable to train all week, Lam had already been forced into making a couple of changes before deciding to double his re-shuffling.
That he can introduce two Irish internationals - Kieran Marmion and the summer's South African debutant Tiernan O'Halloran - says much about the squad's depth, even if the regular listing of the absent injured (19) tends to a conclusion that playing for Connacht might be bad for your physical well-being.
Ronan Loughney packs down in the front-row while Academy graduate James Connolly starts alongside Eoin McKeon and captain John Muldoon in the back-row.
Forwards Dominic Robertson-McCoy and Rory Moloney are both in line to make their Connacht debuts.
Wales lock Bradley Davies makes his first competitive start for Ospreys, for whom the only high-profile international absentees are Alun-Wyn Jones and Dan Biggar.
Connacht - T O'Halloran,N Adeolokun, E Griffin, B Aki, M Healy; J Carty, K Marmion; R Loughney, T McCartney, F Bealham; U Dillane, D Qualter; E McKeon, J Connolly, J Muldoon (capt). Reps: D Heffernan, D Robertson-McCoy, JP Cooney, L Stevenson, R Moloney, C Blade, S O'Leary, D Poolman.
Ospreys - D Evans; J Hassler, B John, J Matavesi, E Walker; S Davies, R Webb (capt); N Smith, S Parry, D Arhip, B Davies, R Thornton, O Cracknell, J Tipuric, T Ardron. Reps: S Baldwin, P James, M Fia, L Ashley, J King, D Baker, T Habberfield, D Howells.
Ref - B Whitehouse (WRU)
- Connacht v Ospreys, Live, TG4, 7.35