Tuesday 25 October 2016

Lam determined to end away-day blues as Connacht take on league leaders Scarlets

Published 09/01/2016 | 02:30

Connacht coach Pat Lam. Photo: Seb Daly / Sportsfile
Connacht coach Pat Lam. Photo: Seb Daly / Sportsfile

Pat Lam will have a few tough decisions to make over the next few weeks as he looks to strike the right balance between competing in both the Pro12 and the Challenge Cup.

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After a promising start, Connacht's campaign derailed last season and Lam will be mindful of making the same mistakes.

The Westerners endured a tough festive period this time out, losing to Ulster and Leinster, and they will be desperate to bounce back tomorrow against league leaders Scarlets, who have had their own problems of late.

The Welsh side have lost four games on the bounce.

However, their Champions Cup hopes are dead and buried, meaning their primary focus will be on maintaining their lead at the top of the Pro12 and not what lies ahead in Europe over the next two weeks.

Lam has made just one change to the side who lost in Dublin, with second-row Ultan Dillane looking to build on his call-up to the Ireland training squad earlier this week.

"While we were disappointed with the outcome last week against Leinster, there were a lot of positives we could take from the performance," Lam said.

"There are certain aspects of our game that we are looking to improve from last week. We go with confidence knowing that if we add clinical execution to the work ethic already shown, we'll have every chance of getting the points on offer."

Kieran Marmion and Jack Carty continue their half-back partnership, while fresh off his contract extension this week, the evergreen John Muldoon skippers the side from the back-row alongside the fit-again Jake Heenan and Eoghan Masterson.

Connacht haven't won on the road since that famous win over Munster back in November and while there is no sense of panic just yet, they could really do with mustering some of that spirit to get their league campaign back on track.

Scarlets, however, have plenty of quality in their ranks including Canadian World Cup star DTH van der Merwe, and Connacht may again find the going tough.

Verdict: Scarlets

Scarlets - M Collins; S Evans, R King, H Parkes, DTH van der Merwe; A Thomas, A Davies; R Evans, K Owens (capt), S Lee; T Price, L Rawlins; A Shingler, J Barclay, M Allen. Reps: E Elias, P John, R Jones, M Paulino, R Pitman, R Williams, S Shingler, S Hughes.

Connacht - T O'Halloran; N Adeolokun, B Aki, C Ronaldson, M Healy; J Carty, K Marmion; F Bealham, T McCartney, N White; U Dillane, A Browne; J Muldoon (capt), J Heenan, E Masterson. Reps: D Heffernan, R Loughney, R Ah You, A Muldowney, S O'Brien, I Porter, AJ MacGinty, R Parata.

REF - M Mitrea (ITA)

Scarlets v Connacht, Live, TG4, tomorrow, 2.30

Irish Independent

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