Sunday 25 February 2018

O'Halloran: We became robotic with Lam's plan

'O'Halloran hasn't had a chance to impress the new boss yet as he nurses a knee injury that required minor surgery after Ireland's summer tour, but from his watching brief, the signs are certainly promising.' Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
'O'Halloran hasn't had a chance to impress the new boss yet as he nurses a knee injury that required minor surgery after Ireland's summer tour, but from his watching brief, the signs are certainly promising.' Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

When the powers that be at Connacht got together to draw up a shortlist of potential successors to Pat Lam, they faced more than one dilemma.

They primarily needed someone who would fully buy into the west of Ireland culture but it was also imperative that they built on the solid foundations that had been laid rather than starting all over again.

Kieran Keane ticks a lot of those boxes and it is reassuring for players and supporters alike that Connacht's expansive style of play will remain.

Lessons do however have to be learned from last season's disaster. Connacht barely managed to put up a fight in their PRO12 title defence, while missing out on the Champions Cup is costly both on and off the pitch.

The timing of Lam's announcement that he was jumping ship for Bristol undoubtedly disrupted Connacht's season but even before that, there was a sense that other teams had figured out how to counteract their game-plan.

John Muldoon has already alluded to it but his side almost became overly confident in their willingness to run the ball from deep and Tiernan O'Halloran echoed those sentiments.

"Under Pat we all had specific roles, we knew what we had to do but we were nearly a bit too robotic at times," the full-back admitted.

"We didn't play what was in front of us, and what was on. I think especially now with Nigel (Carolan) at the back, giving us a lot of freedom to play what's in front of us, and be excited with that, and have a go when it's on.

Emphasis

"There's also maybe more putting boot to ball in certain situations. There's different ways of playing, and now we're not restricted to just running or just kicking the ball, it's a greater emphasis on playing like when you were kids, and reading what's on."

Since arriving in Galway, Keane has had two weeks of pre-season with his new squad and oversaw their training game against Munster on Friday.

O'Halloran hasn't had a chance to impress the new boss yet as he nurses a knee injury that required minor surgery after Ireland's summer tour, but from his watching brief, the signs are certainly promising.

"It's good to have that change of emphasis, it's completely new structures now," the 26-year old said.

"The way we play is completely different, there are a lot of new ideas. There's just a new energy around the place. It's very enjoyable. There's a lot of competition too, you can see there's an extra oomph in training."

So what are those differences between Lam and Keane's philosophies?

"It's early, but there's a lot of emphasis on individuals working on their off-time too," O'Halloran explained.

"In the past when guys got away from here, they went into relax mode, whereas now there's more pressure to keep that workload and analysis going.

"It's still pretty exciting, it's still a good brand of rugby, just a few tweaks here and there. We had the 2-4-2 shape for the last few years now, so we're gone slightly away from that, although it is still there in parts.

"That's the thing, we've many different ways we can play now. It depends now on conditions, we've different ways to play, which is something we've maybe lacked in the past. It's exciting, the lads have bought into the new structures, we're getting there.

"There are similarities with how the Chiefs play Super Rugby. They are quite a structured side but they can throw in some mad stuff. They're a high offloading side, which we try to do as well.

"There's lots of new stuff now, and it's just about the lads putting their stamp on it and the lads buying into it.

"There's only one way to go after last season, it was disappointing. But there's a lot of changes around the place, and everyone is excited."

Irish Independent

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