Saturday 1 October 2016

Lam targets top and winning start

Declan Rooney

Published 02/09/2016 | 02:30

Lam: “We know how tough it is to win this competition and when you go from seventh to first, there’s a big gap.” Picture credit: Paul Mohan / SPORTSFILE
Lam: “We know how tough it is to win this competition and when you go from seventh to first, there’s a big gap.” Picture credit: Paul Mohan / SPORTSFILE

Connacht will become the first Pro12 side to beat the same opponent in three consecutive home games if they get off to a winning start against Glasgow Warriors at the Sportsground tomorrow.

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Victories over Gregor Townsend's side came in the final pool game of last season by seven points, and in the Pro12 semi-final on a five-point margin, and a similar win in Round 1 as they start the defence of their title would please Pat Lam's side.

And history has been kind to Connacht in recent opening-day matches. In fact it is four years since they lost in the Pro12's first round - at home to Cardiff Blues in 2012-13 - while they have picked up first-day wins in five of their last six campaigns.

Whether or not that double win at the end of last season turns Connacht's head-to-head fortunes around, Warriors have traditionally been a bogey team for them - Connacht failed to beat the Scottish heavyweights in the previous nine meetings of the sides.

"We know how tough it is to win this competition and when you go from seventh to first, there's a big gap," said Lam.

"We aim for the top, but they're all outcomes and the big thing for us is that the expectation never changes for us, there's always got to be some sort of expectation for different people.

"Our most important thing is not to focus on that expectation, our whole thing is to focus on how we do our training and how we perform."

Injuries to the pack are a major concern for the Connacht management with 12 forwards out injured ahead of the first game of the new season, but 11 of the team that started the Grand Final in Murrayfield are available to Lam.

Denis Buckley is fit having missed the title run-in due to an ankle injury, while new signings Lewis Stevenson, Eoin Griffin and Cian Kelleher are expected to play a big part tomorrow.

Irish Independent

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