Tuesday 17 October 2017

Connacht are underdogs for Leinster showdown, insists Lam

Pat Lam is adamant that his table-topping Connacht side will be underdogs when they host Leinster on Saturday in perhaps the biggest league match the Westerners have ever played. Photo: PA
Pat Lam is adamant that his table-topping Connacht side will be underdogs when they host Leinster on Saturday in perhaps the biggest league match the Westerners have ever played. Photo: PA

Daragh Small

Pat Lam is adamant that his table-topping Connacht side will be underdogs when they host Leinster on Saturday in perhaps the biggest league match the Westerners have ever played.

The Sportsground is set to be packed on Saturday but while his side are enjoying their best season ever, Lam insisted that they are not getting carried away.

And he stressed that although they lead the Pro12, their primary objective is to qualify for the Champions Cup.

Lam's men will be looking for their sixth successive victory in the Pro12, but Connacht have lost 20 of their 26 games against Leinster.

The Sportsground capacity has been upped from 5,900 to 7,300 for the game with extra seating deployed behind the goals.

With just five games remaining, Connacht are a point clear at the top, and with their international contingent, including Robbie Henshaw returning, they will be full of confidence.

Henshaw is set to play his first game for Connacht since announcing his decision to leave at the end of the season and will line up against the Leinster side he will join in the summer.

Refusing

Lam is refusing to get distracted by side-issues and he feels Connacht are underdogs it on Saturday.

"We are playing a team that has 31 internationals and we have eight - although that number is going up which is great. But they have the most capped team in the Pro12, 876 caps, we have the lowest, 50.

"So when you look at that, there's no doubt. Everyone put their money on that team.

"Our number one goal is to get to the Champions Cup."

Connacht have been boosted by the return of John Cooney and Shane Delahunt from injury, but Ireland lock Ultan Dillane remains a slight worry.

Place-kicker Craig Ronaldson is definitely out after he picked up an ankle ligament injury in the win over Edinburgh.

"When Robbie was away, Craig really took to the inside-centre role, and obviously he is the best goal-kicker in the club," said Lam.

"So that's a big loss for us in one sense. I think he's second in the Pro12 as far as percentages go. We lose his experience and his kicking game. But that's the way it is, next guy steps up and does the job.

"It is great to have John Cooney back. Kieran Marmion is back, and Caolin Blade has done tremendously well, and Ian Porter too there. So now we have got four scrum-halves with quality that we can choose from."

Irish Independent

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