Saturday 3 December 2016

Lam: Pro12 is a great competition

John Fallon

Published 12/02/2016 | 02:30

Connacht head coach, Pat Lam. Photo: Gareth Everett / SPORTSFILE
Connacht head coach, Pat Lam. Photo: Gareth Everett / SPORTSFILE

Connacht coach Pat Lam said the battle for play-off places this season shows just how good the Guinness Pro12 competition is.

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At least eight teams are seriously in contention for the four semi-final places with over one-third of the campaign still to run.

Lam said that when you try to work out the various permutations, you appreciate that a separate set of results could change everything.

"Then you realise how great the competition is and how close it is," he said.

Connacht have eight games left in the Pro12 this season and are the only side bidding for a semi-final spot who are also still involved in Europe.

There are four home matches and four away, alternating with each fixture from here to the final game of the regular Pro12 campaign when they host Glasgow Warriors on May 7.

It was confirmed this week that all games in the final round on Saturday, May 7, will kick-off simultaneously at 3.0.

The key for Connacht will be to be still firmly in contention for at least a top six finish at that stage and qualification for the first time on their own steam for the Champions Cup, but a semi-final spot is still within their grasp.

Connacht face two trips to Italy, starting next weekend in Parma against Zebre and have one more trip across the Irish Sea to Edinburgh next month.

The only other away game will be in Belfast against Ulster on April 1.

That will be one of three Irish derbies which Connacht will play - the other two being at home to Leinster on March 26 and Munster on April 16, which is the week after they play Grenoble in the quarter-finals of the European Challenge Cup.

The first of the four remaining home games will be against Ospreys on February 27, and Lam knows how tough is going to be given that all the other contenders, unlike Connacht, have nothing to play for other than the Pro12.

"Everyone's fully focused on Pro12. So are we until April. That's fully parked over this side.

"We just focus on ourselves and by the time the next break comes up the table will take care of itself," added the Connacht coach.

Irish Independent

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