Wednesday 21 March 2018

Connacht boss Pat Lam: We need to play for full 80 to end Ospreys jinx

Connacht head coach Pat Lam calling the shots from the sidelines against Zebre
Connacht head coach Pat Lam calling the shots from the sidelines against Zebre

Pat Lam

Eight weeks into the new season, but this week is only our second away trip in what has been an unusual stop-start beginning to our campaign due to the World Cup.

It was nice to have a few more home games to kickstart our season but we don't mind going on the road this week after a good break from travelling.

At least we'll be at home either side of the mammoth trip to Russia for our Challenge Cup game in two weeks' time. We'll fly out on Tuesday evening and have three nights in Krasnoyarsk before the Saturday afternoon kick-off.

It's vital that we get out there early to recover from the long journey and the two flights and get used to our surroundings. It's going to be a very different challenge but one we're all really looking forward to.

The trip to Wales today is somewhat easier, but a lot of planning goes into it all the same.

After our early morning captain's run at the Sportsground, we will travel by bus up to Dublin airport for our flight to Bristol and a two-hour bus journey to Swansea.

It's an early kick off at 1.30 on Saturday so the nutritionist and strength and conditioning staff have worked on our itinerary and made some tweaks to the players' preparation.


As a management team, we will be up as usual for our match-day run. For the past three seasons, at all away games, we have all got up early and run 5k together on the morning of the game.

It's a great way to start the day and although some of us dread the extra early start, I think we're all happy once it's done.

It's a good challenge for us against the Ospreys tomorrow. We haven't beaten them in Wales since 2004 and the last home win was 2013, so it's well overdue.

It's always a hard place to go, Liberty Stadium, and we know the quality in their squad, regardless of whether or not they have any of their internationals back.

Reviewing our recent games against them, we can see that we've competed really well but then we see a burst where we conceded tries because of sloppy play.

We've spoken about it as a group and the last 30 minutes against Zebre where we started to cruise and stopped playing our game just won't be acceptable against Ospreys.

They had their first win of the season last week away to Treviso and they're certainly not sitting where they're used to on the table so we expect a fired-up Ospreys side in their home ground. We have to play as a team.

We've had a good week's training so it's about getting out there, building on the confidence that we have and executing the game-plan.

While we were pleased with the result and the five points from the Zebre game, we were disappointed with the performance and that last 30 minutes of the game is not something we are proud of. That's the period we focused on in the review.

I said after the game that in those situations when we're ahead and have the bonus point secured, we have to put our foot on the throat and be ruthless. The way you do that is by sticking to your structures and the game-plan.

We didn't do that for the full 80 minutes last week and that's what was so frustrating - especially when we conceded a last-minute try for the second game in a row.

So that's what we're working on and it involves working on the mental side of it as well. How do we fix it? First of all we have to understand the issue and discuss a solution. And then we have to train to win with that in mind. And I'm pleased that we have done that well this week.

It was disappointing for Ireland's World Cup campaign to end, and there will be no-one more gutted than the players and management themselves. When it comes to knockout rugby in the World Cup, you need everything, including injuries, to go your way.

To lose the big five was tragic. If the All Blacks lost Dan Carter, Richie McCaw, Conrad Smith, Kieran Reid and Brodie Retallick, the impact it would have on them would be massive as well.

However, Argentina's running game was exceptional to watch and I'm looking forward to their semi-final against Australia on Sunday - I think they have a great chance to make their first ever final.

Irish Independent

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