Lam targets Zebre scalp to maintain play-off push
The week may have started badly with star player Robbie Henshaw announcing his departure for Leinster, but Connacht coach Pat Lam wants it to finish on a high and break new ground for the province.
Last season was Connacht's best ever in the Pro12 with ten wins, but a victory in Parma against Zebre tomorrow will see them equal that with around one-third of the season still to run.
Indeed, a bonus-point win over the Italians, who they have defeated in all 11 league and Heineken Cup games, will see them equal last season's haul of 50 points.
That total, up from a previous best of 39 in the 2010-'11 season, was not enough to secure automatic qualification for the Champions Cup, with Scarlets pipping them to sixth spot and Lam's men subsequently losing a play-off to Gloucester.
But now Lam wants his men to push on and get into the Champions Cup and bid for a first ever semi-final spot in the Pro12.
"We want the four or five points against Zebre. At this stage of the season there are nine teams, possibly 10, that can make the top six, so every game is crucial.
"We have done really well against Zebre in my time here, because we have paid them the right respect and we have prepared.
"I learned that when we lost to Treviso in my first year, if you drop your standards, you will pay the price.
"They have improved considerably, they have beaten Treviso back to back and knocked over a few, and they are hard at home.
"We understand the table at the moment, there is a split starting to happen, but every team has to get their points and we know how important it is and that is what we focus on," added Lam, whose side will have seven games remaining after this weekend.