Wednesday 17 January 2018

It's great to see our lads shine in an Irish jersey

Kieran Marmion in action for Wolfhounds against Saxons in Irish Independent Park last week
Kieran Marmion in action for Wolfhounds against Saxons in Irish Independent Park last week

Pat Lam

While it was just a week away from the office, it seems as if everyone has returned to the place with a big smile, a few with suntans and all with an eagerness to improve and build on what we have done to date.

As a coaching team we sat down and reviewed how things were going before the break. Overall, we are happy with where are on the Pro12 table and reaching the Challenge Cup quarter-final, but we have identified some key areas that we wanted to work on.

We believe we can really improve in all areas of our game but particularly on our attack, with the weather improving and the next two games being played in daylight. So just having that extra time to hone those skills while preparing for Scarlets and the games after that was invaluable.

We all came back on Monday and we got the guys straight back into it with a good gym session and some conditioning games and drills. Reconditioning the players this week is important with some of the games we have coming up, but we have given just as much time to our tackling, breakdown and ball work. That's how important it is to us. Now that we are out of the tougher period of weather (fingers crossed!) we expect to be able to play the game we want to more often.

Already the focus and homework has started on the Scarlets next weekend. Some of the guys who need game time played for the Eagles against the Ravens yesterday, but since we arrived home from La Rochelle the focus switched to that key trip to Wales.

Some of the boys headed south to get some sun on their backs - myself included - but there was no rest for some of the others. We had three players - Kieran Marmion, Nathan White and Eoin McKeon - involved on the field for the Wolfhounds against the Saxons, while it was great to see Dan McFarland in the head coach hot seat.

I was really pleased to find out Eoin got called up late on the Monday as well for the game and to see him perform so strongly on that stage is a massive boost for all of us. When you consider the talented back-rows that are available, for Eoin to get called up and show that he is part of the mix is pleasing.

It's a big weekend for everyone involved in the Ireland camp. Being champions, I have no doubt Joe Schmidt has got them well prepared.

You never take any game lightly, they are overwhelming favourites but Italy in Rome is never an easy task. This is an exciting time for Irish rugby and for Connacht Rugby to have Kieran, Nathan and Robbie in the squad. I am sure that they have a big part to play for Ireland in the coming weeks.

While I'll enjoy following the whole tournament unfold, getting the job done for Connacht is our main focus. We'd love to have a fully-fit squad to choose from for the coming weeks, but in professional rugby that's a very rare occurrence.

Willie Faloon got some positive news on his shoulder injury last week though; he's pretty happy that it doesn't look like he'll require surgery. If his rehab goes according to plan, he should make it back without surgery which is a boost. Mick Kearney made a return to play yesterday for the Eagles, while Jake Heenan and Tiernan O'Halloran made successful returns for the Eagles against Germany last week.

We have long-term injuries for Sean Henry, Jason Harris-Wright and Bundee Aki, but overall we are pretty healthy as a squad and there will be some tough selections.

As you are reading this the Connacht Rugby squad will probably be en route to Carrick-on-Shannon RFC for the latest in our provincial visits. I visited the club myself a few months back and did some work with the mini-rugby teams on a Saturday morning and was really impressed with the whole set-up.

I promised I would try and bring the team back. So today we are on our way there.

There are a lot different schools and clubs in the area, so it's good to get the players out into the community. After this visit to Leitrim we can say we have been to all five counties in the province in the last season and a half.

But just because we have the full set doesn't mean it will be the last time we go on the road. We will continue as a team to try to grow and promote the game in our community, our counties and our province, most definitely while I am still here in the beautiful west of Ireland.

Slán

Irish Independent

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