Saturday 3 December 2016

Lam expects 'tough battle' as Connacht look to keep pace

Published 06/11/2015 | 02:30

Connacht head coach Pat Lam
Connacht head coach Pat Lam

Pat Lam his recalled his Irish international duo Robbie Henshaw and Nathan White to the starting XV as Connacht play host to the league's basement side, Treviso.

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Henshaw has rather strangely been named at full-back, a position he has played in the past but given his good performances for Ireland in the centre, Lam's decision has come somewhat as a surprise.

Lam, however, explained his reasoning behind the selection and admitted that he wanted to maintain his midfield of Craig Ronaldson and Bundee Aki.

"Robbie will start in the 15 shirt for us where he has a lot of experience from his earlier days at Connacht," Lam outlined.

"Obviously Tiernan (O'Halloran) has done a great job for us at full-back since the start of the season but his move to wing for this game means we can keep that continuity in our centre partnership for this week.

"This is only game four of the 16-game run so it's a long way to go and we're going to need players feeling as fresh as possible each week. We always have tough, physical battles when it comes to Treviso and we've always had to work hard against them.

"They have the ability to pile on the pressure and it's up to us to counter that by being disciplined to stay in our systems and structures."

Try as Lam might to build up the threat of Treviso, the reality of the Italians' plight is they are without a league win since February.

Lam has made six changes in total from the team that beat Edinburgh last time out with John Cooney, Dave Heffernan, Ultan Dillane and Eoin McKeon all returning.

Having recently joined the western province on the back of impressive displays at the World Cup with USA, Dublin born out-half AJ MacGinty is in line to make his first appearance from the bench.

"We're delighted to be at home again and we want to sign off this block of Pro12 games with another win," Lam added.

His side should have little problem doing just that and maintaining pace at the summit.

Verdict: Connacht

Connacht - R Henshaw; T O'Halloran, B Aki, C Ronaldson, M Healy; J Carty, J Cooney; D Buckley, D Heffernan, N White; U Dillane, A Browne; J Muldoon (capt), N Fox-Matamua, E McKeon. Reps: T McCartney, F Bealham, R Ah You, A Muldowney, E Masterson, K Marmion, AJ MacGinty, D Leader.

Benetton Treviso - J Hayward; A Pratichetti, T Iannone, E Bacchin, S Ragusi; L McClean, A Lucchese; M Zanusso, L Bigi, R Harden; T Paulo, J Montauriol; M Barbini, A Zanni (capt), A Steyn. Reps: D Giazzon, M Muccignat, S Ferrari, D Budd, M Lazzaroni, A De Marchi, E Gori, S Christie.

REF - I Davies (WRU)

Irish Independent

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