Saturday 17 February 2018

Pat Lam: Attitude is key for this priceless play-off

John Muldoon speaks to members of the ball team following the match against Scarlets. Picture: Sportsfile
John Muldoon speaks to members of the ball team following the match against Scarlets. Picture: Sportsfile

Pat Lam

Once we missed out on the top six, we said that this game was the big one. We are all massively determined to reach our goal of Champions Cup. Win this weekend and we give ourselves a huge chance in a final shoot-out at home in the Sportsground.

It's always been about game to game for us but obviously having that carrot of a home final is at the back of our minds this week.

While we were extremely disappointed with our performances against Scarlets and Munster, one good thing that came out of those games is that it forced us to take a real hard look at ourselves and go through everything we were doing with a fine tooth-comb.

There were some hard questions that we asked ourselves and a lot of the problems are not technical aspects of the game but lie in our attitude.

With this play-off tomorrow, you couldn't ask for a better game to have an opportunity answer those questions.

If we don't, our season ends this weekend and none of us want that.

The boys had a few days off after the Munster game and we came back in last Friday for a really tough session. The work put in throughout the week has been very positive and I definitely saw everyone working towards answering those questions asked of us.

But as John Muldoon said, it only counts if we show the response on the pitch at 4pm tomorrow.

It's really exciting for us to be going to play Northampton in Franklin's Gardens.


Only four or five players in the squad have played over there and of those, only James Cannon has been there in the last two to three years. That element of the unknown just adds to the excitement during the week.

From my time there, I know what a great ground it is and the atmosphere that the occasion will create. They have a magnificent surface which allows for the type of rugby that we know we can play when we get it right.

Thankfully we have the experience of big knock-out games under our belt. It's a one-off game and the boys will relish that environment.

For us, the confidence comes from the week that we've had in training. We highlighted some key areas that let us down in that Munster game and there were moments that we were all embarrassed by.

It simply was not up to the standard we have set for ourselves. It's still a massive challenge going over to Northampton but we are confident we can improve on our performance.

It's different opposition for us and of course we will have a game-plan in place for Northampton. But that makes no difference if we don't get the attitude right on the pitch. We want a performance that represents our standards and the pride we have in representing Connacht.

Of course we've factored in the opposition we are facing and the opportunities there but first and foremost we have to get our own game right.

Ultimately we can say that we want to improve and we can do all the work in training but there is 80 minutes where we have to perform and we have a stage and a platform to do it tomorrow. It's over to us now.

Earlier in the week, the Ireland squad was announced for the summer tour to USA and Japan and we were delighted to see five Connacht players named, including newcomers John Cooney and Dave Heffernan.

I'm particularly delighted for Dave, a Mayo man who has come through the Connacht system and put in a huge amount of work to get to where he is.

To switch from the back to the front-row quite late in your career takes a lot of guts. Dave had just made that move when I arrived here four years ago and it's been a pleasure to watch his progression.

He is one of the most diligent players in the squad and he fully deserves this opportunity. His journey is a real example of our 'Grassroots to Green Shirts' vision and I'm delighted for his family and everyone in Ballina.

I will be keeping a close eye on the Ireland games next month and really looking forward to seeing how the Connacht boys perform on the big stage. I have no doubt they will all do the West of Ireland proud.

Irish Independent

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