Saturday 10 December 2016

Lam confident Connacht can finish the job

Published 28/05/2016 | 02:30

Connacht head coach Pat Lam. Photo: Paul Mohan / Sportsfile
Connacht head coach Pat Lam. Photo: Paul Mohan / Sportsfile

Connacht coach Pat Lam believes his side are poised to win their first trophy by beating Leinster in this evening's Guinness Pro12 final against Leinster.

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The Samoan named an unchanged team for the Murrayfield showpiece and his side trained at the Edinburgh venue yesterday.

They are riding the crest of a wave after their breakthrough season and Lam wants them to take their shot at history.

"I'm very confident." he said. "I am pretty calm at the moment. We have done the prep and we have an extremely good week. Naturally, everyone's buzzing, everyone's excited.

"It's the first time for the whole season we have had the same group out.

"There is real belief. I have always said right from day one, anyone can stand in the huddle before you go out onto the field and say 'look, let's be confident'.

"But you shouldn't need to say it if you have done the work through the year. If you build the relationships, if you go through tough times together. . . and we have had a lot of them, different things that we have experienced.

"Yes we are in uncharted territory, compared to what Leinster have done in finals rugby. This is our first one but when we look back, some of the experiences that we had we can be confident."

Leinster must do without captain Isa Nacewa, who has failed to recover from the arm injury he suffered against Ulster, and Ireland second-row Devin Toner, who was withdrawn due to a family bereavement.

Rob Kearney returns at full-back, with Ross Molony promoted from the bench to start in the second-row.

And stand-in skipper Jamie Heaslip says the 2013 and 2014 Pro12 champions have learnt to appreciate the league after missing out on the latter stages last year.

"We realised last year how hard it is to get into knockout stages of the competition," he said.

"It's very hard to get into that top four, to maintain that top four. We are going up against a side that from the outset were the pace-makers for the league. We realise the challenge.

"We definitely did not like last year, not being involved come the knockout stages. We had to take our slice of humble pie and sit at home and watch the games and learn from our mistakes. Hopefully we have learned.

"This is a massive test for this group of players. Some of us have fond memories of Murrayfield, but that doesn't count for anything on the day. It's knockout rugby, and it's anyone's."

Irish Independent

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