Friday 30 September 2016

Lam's men have belief to pull off upset

No hint of inferiority in Connacht squad as they bid to take down league leaders

Johnny O'Connor

Published 24/04/2015 | 02:30

John Muldoon in action during Connacht's training ahead of the game against Glasgow (Sportsfile)
John Muldoon in action during Connacht's training ahead of the game against Glasgow (Sportsfile)

At this stage of the season every week is a big week for Connacht, but with the league leaders coming to town the expectation is reduced a bit and it could be an opportunity to take a big scalp.

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Glasgow have been the Pro12 pacesetters for much of the last few seasons. Gregor Townsend's men have beaten a lot of good teams and have been involved in semi-finals and finals.

They are generally in a good state at this time of year and they're well used to keeping up this level of intensity because there is always something on offer for them.

It's going to be tough ask but saying, that Connacht played well two weeks ago in their defeat to Ulster. You would hope that precision will be there in this performance too and that the break hasn't affected them.

There has to be a bit of bravado about the squad and there is no point in hiding away, this is a big game and they need to face up to that and stand up to Glasgow.

You need to have a certain level of confidence within yourself and that's how you prepare during the week. That is in everything they do - whether it's their analysis or their physical preparation. Hard work eliminates fear.

They need to believe in themselves, and when they take that belief onto the pitch they're a great side - as an individual, as a player, you're thinking 'I am going to be the best on this pitch'.

Having played at Connacht, a lot of the individuals have that level of belief and it has improved this year with the younger guys coming through.

There is no sense of inferiority for those guys coming up in the game and they think 'We're are at home, we're are a better team and we will beat Glasgow'.

So with a young team, if Connacht can show up, do their jobs around the field and execute a structure for this game they can take the win.

Connacht need to make sure there is no self-doubt within the ranks. They need to focus on what is required of them and don't double up on mistakes.

Underdogs

Last weekend we saw Leinster, who were massive underdogs, push Toulon all the way and they could have beaten the reigning European champions.

Irish teams love that underdog tag and we've seen it with the national side this year: if they focus on the simple aspects of their game and believe they can win, then no victory is beyond them.

There is a gap there at the moment where the French sides are streets ahead in terms of the squads they are assembling, but saying all that, outside of Toulon and Clermont, the Irish teams would comfortably have the beaten any of the other Top 14 teams.

The hierarchy has changed within Europe - the Munsters and Leinsters of this world are not the dominant forces in the Champions Cup at the moment; the top French sides seem to be setting the bar.

But it's not all about the money either, the English teams haven't done much despite the financial backing they've been getting.

Saracens have been pretty inconsistent for the amount of money they have spent and they have only won one trophy as a result.

So even with the strength of Glasgow's squad, Connacht must realise that this a game that they can win if they follow Pat Lam's game-plan and believe in themselves.

The ramifications of a win here could be huge - Connacht wouldn't be expected to win here so if they could back this up with a bonus-point victory or even just a win away to Zebre they could seal sixth spot then and there.

Sometimes a team can over-think things and start to focus too much on the bigger picture but I am sure Lam will have his players well grounded ahead of this game.

Hopefully the pack can do the damage in the set-piece and with Bundee Aki and Robbie Henshaw having more time together they can click again.

It's an exciting prospect and with no one giving Connacht a chance against Glasgow it's the ideal opportunity to go out there and cause an upset - I think they will do it.

Irish Independent

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