Friday 15 November 2019

Munster win was Connacht's best display of the year

Connacht head coach Pat Lam
Connacht head coach Pat Lam

Pat Lam

Athbhliain faoi mhaise daoibh! This week has all been about getting ourselves ready to face a hugely physical test against Edinburgh tonight, but if we can improve on the effort and hunger for victory that we showed against Munster it will be a huge step towards the win.

New Year's Day at the Sportsground was a terrific place to be. To see the ground packed all around with Connacht and Munster supporters was fantastic, and to back it up with our best team performance of the year, right across the board, was really pleasing.

I suppose that performance and victory over Munster came off the back of a couple of frustrating days against Leinster and Ulster over the Christmas period.

Despite not taking wins from those two tricky away games, we took a lot of belief from them. There was plenty of frustration that we earned just one point, but we channelled all of that into creating a bit of history.

A lot of hard work and preparation went into the game. We saw what Munster did against Leinster and we knew the challenge that we were up against. But we worked hard on the game-plan for the weather conditions and we laid out our tactics accordingly.

For that to work it wasn't just about the 23 players involved on match day, it was a full squad effort.

Expect

The other squad members had to play the Munster role at training all week. We knew what to expect and we were ready for it.

One guy who deserves a huge amount of credit is Conor McPhillips, our head performance analyst. People tend to think of stats and video clips when it comes to analysis, but the work that Conor does with the coaching team and the players is massive.

He really does a lot of work behind the scenes to get all the information we need on our opposition; he does a lot of work with Andre and the backs; and he is also a huge help to me when it comes to defence.

He is an ex-player: he's very passionate about Connacht. His work is excellent week in, week out, but this game stands out. He plays a huge part in our coaching group as he is also a coach himself.

One of the real pleasing things from last week's win was that we matched Munster's physicality and bettered them at times.

But physicality is only good if it is channelled into the right techniques and the right structures. Our defence structure was very solid and when we paired our attacking game with the physicality it worked very well.

We had watched Munster at ruck time against Leinster and they won that battle, so we knew it was one we had to do well in. We chopped them low, we hustled hard, we got off the line and got in their faces.

The quality of our tackling is something that we work hard on in training. We have tried to improve our technique and because we have a committed bunch of guys who want to work on their skills, we are seeing the results.

If we work hard, get ourselves set in the correct shape to tackle, then it all comes down to tackle quality - and these guys can tackle. Quality tackles has been one of our big assets this season.

That skill is going to be put to the test even more tonight. Edinburgh are a very powerful side. We saw what they did to Munster earlier this season so they have no fear of travelling to Ireland and will be boosted by beating Glasgow.

Under Alan Solomons they have become a very strong, and confident side. They are very direct, so it is going to be bodies on the line stuff again but we want to keep our unbeaten home record intact.

On another point, I was delighted to hear that Eric Elwood has come back to Connacht Rugby. When I first arrived in Galway, Eric was a major help to me and the way he made me welcome showed me the passion that he has for his home province.

It is a huge lift to everyone for him to come in and is the latest of our former players to come back into the fold.

Willie Ruane our CEO, Tim Allnutt our manager, Dan McFarland, Conor McPhillips, Nigel Carolan, Jimmy Duffy and Gavin Duffy, all did it on the playing field and now they are working off it to make Connacht successful. Having them involved really helps to drive the vision of Connacht's growth.

Irish Independent

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