Tuesday 19 September 2017

Culture here will help new boys bed in quickly

Pat Lam and Tim Allnutt, pictured during a training session, hope to go to France boosted by victory over Zebre
Pat Lam and Tim Allnutt, pictured during a training session, hope to go to France boosted by victory over Zebre

Tim Allnutt

While most other workplaces have been coming back after the Christmas break, we are just coming out of what was probably our busiest period yet.

Professional sport doesn't take a break over Christmas and while it was fantastic to have Christmas Day and that weekend to spend with family, we were straight back into work on Stephen's Day with a busy schedule of games.

But we are all well used to it. It's a privilege to represent the province, which is why we are so disappointed with the recent results and determined to get back to winning ways this weekend.

It's also been an unusually busy time of year on the recruitment side of things, with four new players coming in over the last few weeks to join our squad.

John Andress, Peter McCabe and Steve Crosbie have all spent some time at Munster but with our current injuries, an opportunity came up to bring them up here to help us out.

It's a great chance for them to get some game time so it's a win-win situation for all parties.

We've also signed young back Tom Farrell for the remainder of our season and he's been added to our Champions Cup squad in the absence of a lot of our regular midfielders.

From the outside looking in, it may seem like a lot of chopping and changing but that is the nature of professional sport.

We can't control the injury situation but what we can control is the culture and the environment in which we operate.

LEADERS

We have a really good bunch of leaders here who know Connacht Rugby inside out.

We will make sure that the new guys coming in not only get to grips with the rugby side of things but also understand who and what it is they are playing for.

It's so important for us all to have a sense of that before we pull on a Connacht jersey and run out on to the field. I have no doubt, what with the culture we have built in terms of relationships and helping each other out, that the new guys will quickly buy into what we are doing.

It's an exciting time for the team as we switch our focus to Europe and the visit of Zebre to the Sportsground tomorrow for a really important clash in pool 2.

We have a good record against the Italian side and this is our sixth time to play them in a European competition.

We know that a win is the minimum requirement if we want to keep our hopes alive of reaching a first ever Champions Cup quarter final.

To reach the last eight of Europe would be a phenomenal achievement and something our loyal band of supporters could only have dreamed of a few years ago.

We have had some fantastic days in the competition over the years and beaten some big sides. I think we've come a long way as a club and can really challenge to get to those knock out stages.

The team are fully focused on the game this weekend but as team manager I've also been looking ahead to the trip to Toulouse. All the plans are in place for the travel and overnight stay in the French city.

It's helpful that we've been there before and can go back to the same hotel that worked for us. These are small comforts but can make a difference in mindset going into a game.

It's just over three years since that victory at Stade Ernest-Wallon, and going over to play one of the top teams in France is always a thrilling prospect. I think we've matured a lot as a team since then and Toulouse won't be taking us lightly.

First and foremost though, we need to ensure we perform at home tomorrow. A good performance and a win would give us a lot of confidence going over to France for the final pool game.

It's a busy time for everyone at Connacht but a really exciting one.

We can't wait to get back out at the Sportsground tomorrow afternoon.

Irish Independent

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