Friday 15 December 2017

Everyone is itching to get back in action

Connacht’s Aly Muldowney in action against Niyi Adeolokun in training at The Sportsground
Connacht’s Aly Muldowney in action against Niyi Adeolokun in training at The Sportsground

Pat Lam

After quite a break, it's great to be back playing at the Sportsground tomorrow. While everyone is enjoying watching the World Cup - us included - our work behind the scenes hasn't stopped and after getting off to quite a good start with a win over Dragons and two bonus points on the road to Glasgow, we are all raring to get going again.

With another weekend of no Pro12, I took the opportunity to head over to Birmingham for the South Africa v Samoa game.

After the Springboks' loss to Japan, I don't think they've ever been so fired up and determined to get back to winning ways.

Samoa handled themselves well in the first half but having to defend constantly in the second half due to not winning ball took its toll in the end.

Probably the game of the weekend in terms of excitement was England-Wales. It was an unbelievable finish and despite the long list of injuries, Wales showed better composure in the last 20 minutes.

The way they came out in the second half and adapted their game-plan to counter England's was impressive.

They have the squad depth, and players like Dan Biggar can step into the role seamlessly, knowing exactly what he needs to do for the team.


That's the way we have been training at Connacht. Injuries are inevitable so we want our Academy players or our less experienced players to be able to step up when needed and to know exactly what to do when they get there. It's about closing that gap.

We've been tested with injuries ourselves this week with the loss of Dave McSharry, Eoghan Masterson and Ben Marshall among others.

But we have had more time to prepare for this game tomorrow and have a bigger squad training with us since pre-season began so in a way we have been planning for the inevitable casualties.

There has been a great buzz in training all week. A lot of people from outside the camp are asking about our games last season against Cardiff, when we drew at home and lost away to them.

Certainly those games were very frustrating for us but it is a new season and a new focus.

Cardiff are also a different side, with a new coach in Danny Wilson. They are constantly improving and we've seen a big difference in their defensive structures this season.

Every game in this Pro12 is important regardless of who you are playing and every point is vital for us.

That's what frustrated us last year in the two games because in the end it came down to those fine margins and it was the difference of finishing sixth or seventh and playing in the Champions Cup.

We've got high expectations of ourselves as a competitive team. We are continually making improvements day to day and game to game, and we expect to win these games.

We're looking forward to playing in front of a vocal crowd and the weather forecast is looking good for tomorrow afternoon in Galway.

It was very interesting chatting to different people over in the UK at the different World Cup games - former players or different coaches.

Everyone is really interested in the Connacht story and what we are doing here.

One of the questions they ask me is 'how did you end up in Connacht?' and I love going back to the vision that was explained to me over two years ago now.

The belief that everyone here has in where we want to bring Connacht to is a very powerful message.

For those not too familiar with the rugby set-up in Ireland it was great to be able to explain how Connacht are one of four provincial sides contributing to the national team and how we are all working towards similar goals of developing players to play for Ireland.

It's the same structure in New Zealand but not in a lot of other countries. I believe it's the best set-up for the competitiveness of the provinces and the national team.

Robbie Henshaw is the epitome of Grassroots to Greenshirts - our vision at Connacht - and we believe we have so many talented, young players in this province that can go on to play for Ireland while representing Connacht.

Part of getting there is performing in games like this one at the Sportsground tomorrow.

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