Friday 24 November 2017

Lam wary of Zebre's new-found confidence after storm warning in Parma

Pat Lam is wary of a wounded Zebre side. Photo: Sportsfile
Pat Lam is wary of a wounded Zebre side. Photo: Sportsfile

John Fallon

Connacht coach Pat Lam has warned his men they will face a first ever defeat to Zebre if they take anything for granted against the Italians in Parma this afternoon.

Connacht may have beaten Zebre in all 12 games to date, but Lam is quick to remind his men they were 22-10 down there last month when the game was abandoned at half-time due to a storm.

The Italians were embarrassed in the Ricoh Arena last weekend when Wasps ran in 12 tries and won 82-14 after Zebre fielded a second-string side. On that same day, Connacht began their Champions Cup campaign with a fantastic comeback 23-21 victory over four-time champions Toulouse in the Sportsground.

Connacht will look to keep their 100 per cent record against Zebre with a win at Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi which would send them into the December meetings with Wasps in confident form.

Lam has made seven changes to his side following last weekend's victory, but he knows it won't be easy in Parma.

"There is no doubt they have got confidence from the game that wasn't completed," said Lam.

"They never go through a season where they don't win a game. They always win a game - it comes down to who is it going to be against. That preparation is crucial. They have taken a hammering this week from people outside wondering are they worthy to be in the Champions Cup. They took a hammering from their own supporters.

"As a rugby player, we have all been there. There is only one way you can respond to it - you come out firing. That just puts the emphasis on our preparation."

Connacht have been poor in defence this season and have been reliant on the try-scoring exploits of Niyi Adeolokun and Cian Kelleher in attack.

They conceded 17 tries in five Pro12 games and shipped two tries in the opening half against Toulouse last weekend.

But after they trailed 21-11 they held the French Top 14 giants scoreless in the second half, and the Connacht coach wants more of the same as they look to make it two from two.

Connacht hammered Zebre 51-34 in Parma last season but they conceded four tries and a losing bonus point along the way, and Lam says they cannot afford the same this time around.

"Our mindset is around our defence. We know that we can score tries against them," Lam said. "But particularly the last day, we conceded three tries in that half.

"The year before we scored 50-odd points and we allowed 34 in. But our defence from the start of the season to where our defence is now is completely changed.

"We need to continue to improve that and step that up. We don't want to be scoring tries, with a try here and a try there.

"One area where we are going to improve, our big emphasis, is on our D."

Zebre: E Padovani; G Di Giulio, G Bisegni, T Boni, G Venditti; C Canna, M Violi; A Lovotti, O Fabiani, P Ceccarelli; Q Geldenhuys, G Biagi; M Mbanda, J Meyer, D van Schalkwyk.
Replacements: T D'Apice, B Postiglioni, G Roan, J Furno, F Ruzza, G Palazzani, T Castello, G D'Onofrio.
Connacht: C Kelleher; N Adeolokun, P Robb, C Ronaldson, S Ili; J Carty, K Marmion; JP Cooney, S Delahunt, F Bealham; Q Roux, A Browne; S O'Brien, J Heenan, J Muldoon.
Replacements: D Heffernan, D Robertson-McCoy, C Carey, U Dillane, E McKeon, C Blade, S O'Leary, B Aki.
Referee: Mathieu Raynal (FRU)
Zebre v Connacht
BT Sport, 3.15pm

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