Tuesday 27 September 2016

Connacht's casualty list at crisis point

John Fallon

Published 14/12/2015 | 02:30

Coach Pat Lam admitted he might have to do a head count this morning to see if he has a full squad to take to Newcastle next Sunday
Coach Pat Lam admitted he might have to do a head count this morning to see if he has a full squad to take to Newcastle next Sunday

One of the Connacht team doctors is also head of the Emergency Department at University Hospital Galway, and while there may not be trolleys in the corridors at the team headquarters at the Sportsground, Dr John O'Donnell could be forgiven for not being able to tell the two organisations apart this week.

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One thing is certain, there will be as long a queue outside physio Gavin Malouf's treatment room this week as heading out to the pitch to train, with 23 Connacht players out at the weekend through injury.

Coach Pat Lam admitted he might have to do a head count this morning to see if he has a full squad to take to Newcastle next Sunday.

Some of the 23 injured players have already been de-registered for Europe and Lam might have to look if he can clear some more for eligibility.

He lost captain Tiernan O'Halloran prior to Friday's 25-10 win over the Falcons and then late in the game Dave McSharry, introduced for his first action since March, suffered a head injury within a minute or so of coming on.

"We are happy with where we are in both competitions at the moment. There has been a lot of effort put in by a lot of people. But this stretch of games is really starting to take its toll on us," said Lam.

"We are desperately going to try and see if we can bend the rules a little bit and let these guys play. It is a bit of a health and safety thing at the moment."

The win over Falcons has Connacht firmly on course for the quarter-finals of the Challenge Cup. And with Russian minnows Enisei-STM scoring a historic first European win, when they defeated high-flying Brive, Connacht are seven points clear with half of the Pool 1 campaign completed.

But Lam's biggest concern is getting enough fit - and registered - players fit for the trip to Kingston Park next Sunday.

"I have got a few challenges ahead of me. We will just have to see who rocks up but hopefully it is not going to be too bad," said the head coach.

"We had a pretty tough couple of weeks with the injuries and knocks so we need young guys to come in and step up."

Lam praised his men for the way they finished strongly to kill off a plucky challenge from his former club Newcastle.

"When we talk about closing games, with the guys that we had, it is through the whole squad. So we have young guys who are able to step up and do that, and it's certainly pleasing," he added.

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