Pat Lam: A 'next job' mentality after painful Euro exit
Published 15/04/2016 | 02:30
It is difficult to put into words the disappointment we felt as a team immediately in the aftermath of Saturday's loss to Grenoble.
To witness the effort from everyone in the match-day squad filled me with a lot of pride. It was a great game of rugby and I'm still getting messages from people about it, whether they were one of the few hundred Irish supporters in France or watching it from home.
The atmosphere was electric in Stade des Alpes - one of the best grounds we have played in. The noise from both sets of fans was deafening and added to the whole occasion before the rugby even kicked off.
To score some really good team tries quite early on was extremely pleasing but ultimately we let a very good Grenoble side back into the game.
People have asked me 'do we allow the boys to kick?'. The answer is, as we've always said, that we have structures in place that allow us to go through a team, around a team and over a team.
Which way we choose to go is always determined by the defence we face. So the two questions when we review any situation are 'was it on?' and 'did we execute?' The answers to these questions determine the learnings and skill sessions for the individual player.
Defeats like that can be hard to take but I was impressed by the way the boys, led by John Muldoon, spoke in the changing-room afterwards.
We knew we had given it everything but ultimately mistakes had let us down and we were determined to address those mistakes ahead of Munster. So once the review was done on Monday morning, it was very much a 'next job' mentality.
Now that our European journey is over, we will put all our focus into the Pro12 and there are three games to come, starting with Munster tomorrow night.
I said to the players that we should be proud of the position we've put ourselves in. We haven't dropped out of the top four all season and are on the same points as Leinster who are at the top.
We have an opportunity to nail our No 1 goal of Champions Cup qualification with one more win. Win two of the next three games, and we have secured a semi-final spot. Win all three and it's a home semi-final at the Sportsground. So our destiny is very much in our hands and that's very exciting.
The table is so tight and there are only three teams that cannot mathematically make the play offs. Every team is fighting hard to at least qualify for the Champions Cup and Munster will be no different tomorrow.
We know this game is crucial for them and we understand the threats they pose. They are a vastly experienced side with quality internationals and we are going to have to be at our best to ask questions of them.
Injuries continue to test us. It's no secret that we are light in the back-line, particularly at 10 and 15, so to lose another back three player, Danie Poolman, so close after Tiernan O'Halloran is frustrating. But again, this is something that is out of our control and it's just another great opportunity for others to step up, like Matt Healy did last week at full-back.
It was pleasing to have Jack Carty back in full training this week and involved in the match-day squad. He's worked very hard with the medical and S&C teams to get back to full health and fitness and we're just very happy that he's made a good recovery.
We couldn't have asked for a better game to refocus the minds after the trip to France. The inter-pros are always big for us, but I think Munster probably draws the biggest interest of the three. Even more terracing was brought in to make it the highest capacity of the season at 7,800 and the game sold out on Monday.
It looks like we're going to get nice dry conditions to make the game even more enjoyable for the boys and our supporters. It's all set up to be a fantastic night.
Another inter-pro win would be massive but for us, I think we're looking at this as a chance for points and the win to secure our 'top six' goal. That would mean we'd have Champions Cup rugby locked in for next season and can then go about looking at a top four finish for the first time in Connacht's history.
It's a hugely exciting time to be a Connacht supporter.