Saturday 24 June 2017

Lam not panicking despite injury crisis

Lam: Back-row selection problems. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Lam: Back-row selection problems. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Daragh Small

Pro12 champions Connacht face a back-row crisis ahead of this weekend's clash with Ospreys as their injury nightmare continues.

The province have already been struck down in the second-row department with just Ireland international Ultan Dillane, Danny Qualter and new recruit Lewis Stevenson available for selection.

But after a hamstring injury to openside Nepia Fox-Matamua, coach Pat Lam will only have the pick of four first-team players for the three back-row positions in this crucial Round 2 tie at the Sportsground

The hosts will look to bounce back following last weekend's 41-5 six-try defeat at the hands of 2015 winners Glasgow Warriors. But with just captain John Muldoon, Eoin McKeon, James Connolly and the uncapped Rory Moloney to choose from, Connacht will have to dig deep.

"We still have three available second-rows, but the pressure continues into the back-row now too without Jake Heenan, Nepia Fox-Matamua, Sean O'Brien, and Eoghan Masterson," Lam said. "Andrew Browne can play there but he is out. That's putting pressure on at training, but we are confident we can field a team there this weekend."

Tiernan O'Halloran is available again, but there are further problems in the front-row where loosehead prop Denis Buckley is doubtful after he picked up a concussion. But tighthead Conor Carey is available to make his first start.

In the backline scrum-half Caolin Blade (thigh) and full-back Cian Kelleher (hip pointer) will both be monitored. Peter Robb will also be kept under supervision following a concussion he sustained against Glasgow and fellow centre Rory Parata (knee) is out for a month.

Ospreys hammered Zebre 59-5 last weekend, but after doing the double over the Welsh last term Lam says there is no need to panic - despite their opening round defeat. "We don't look at it as losing ground. There are five points available for 21 more rounds, that's 105 points," he said. "So there is still plenty available."

Irish Independent

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