We must make hay during World Cup
Lam's men have big advantage when rivals are without star men
Published 28/08/2015 | 02:30
Connacht have a massive advantage when the World Cup comes around, with other squads decimated and bereft of their big international players.
Realistically Connacht won't face a full-strength side until after October 31, and they have five home games in the first seven. So it's definitely a case of opportunity knocks at the start of the season.
Connacht won ten games in the Pro12 last term but it could be much, much better this time around if they get the start they need.
If they can put it together and deal with the dips in form they should finish in the top half of the table. But they need to look at why they picked up so many injuries at the same time last season.
If they can remedy that and keep guys fit, there will be serious competition for places.
They have some great options in the second-row: Ultan Dillane has an incredible appetite for contact, Aly Muldowney was a stalwart last season, and Quinn Roux had a solid year too.
One guy that I think really needs to get an extended run in the team this year is Jack Carty. In my mind you need to back your out-half for the whole year especially when it is someone that has the amount of potential Jack possesses.
When he has played consistently he has been one of Connacht's stand-out performers.
But he has to be allowed make mistakes because that is how he will improve. No player has ever gotten better without making mistakes and last year was a great learning curve.
So let's back him and reap the rewards because he is the guy with potential.
Connacht were poor against Grenoble but that was the first game of pre-season and the French were much closer to the start of their season.
The performance against Castres was a marked improvement but they lost again.
And then the win over Munster wasn't sensational either and need to be put in perspective.
It is great to do well in the maul and it was a big strength last year too. Connacht can use that as a weapon, but it can also be figured out if it is used all of the time.
Nevertheless if a team shows a weak area like Munster did and Connacht are able to capitalise on it, then fair play to them. Hopefully they can do that during the season.
It was nice to see Eoghan Masterson given the captaincy. He has grown up majorly in recent years and should really push to start now. He seems to have a bit of everything and he is a home-grown talent, which is a plus.
Eoghan has a great mobility getting around the park and offers so much from the back of the scrum.
I haven't seen Nepia Fox-Matamua or Api Pewhairangi play yet, but as they are coming in from overseas they need to better then what we already have. They need to add to Connacht Rugby so they have a bit to prove when they eventually get going because they are filling valuable squad places when we have great local talent already available.
There will be a big void left by Robbie Henshaw when he goes to the World Cup, and a lot of the younger guys coming through will be pushing for that place.
Rory Parata has had some time in pre-season and it could be someone like him or Peter Robb who comes in under the radar and has a massive season.
There is so much talent being delivered from the Connacht academy year on year, and who knows, Parata could be the next bolter to come through.
Nigel Carolan is doing a fantastic job. The work he is doing with the younger guys cannot be underestimated, and Connacht are now a bigger province as a result.
Connacht might send three guys in the Irish squad to this World Cup, and that is a real testament to the academy and the talent being filtered through there.
A lot of younger guys have stepped up to full-time contracts this season and if they perform it could be a huge year for the province.
But they need to start fast and make the most of the early games where Connacht have the advantage.