| 8.9°C Dublin

Pat Lam: Primed for a tough test after short turnaround

Close

Connacht coach Pat Lam speaks to his players during training in Galway this week

Connacht coach Pat Lam speaks to his players during training in Galway this week

SPORTSFILE

Connacht coach Pat Lam speaks to his players during training in Galway this week

The real emphasis of this week was on recovery and clarity - as it was not only an unusual five-day turnaround but we also had to travel.

We left at 6am yesterday from the Sportsground to get over to Cardiff via Dublin, but it was a challenge we have prepared for.

On Monday we had a recovery day and did our review of the Treviso game so we could sign that off by the afternoon.

We went out to Maree Community Centre the following day to use their fantastic facilities and prepare for the 4G pitch at Arms Park. It was snowing, so quite a few were happy to be indoors.

That session gave us a chance to preview Cardiff, walk and jog through the parts of the game-plan.

As it was still less than 48 hours after the Treviso game the session focus was more on clarity and understanding of what we need to do as a team and each player's role within that structure to apply 'Connacht pressure' on Cardiff.

On Wednesday there was one team session and we kept it down to 50 minutes. When you are playing on a 4G surface that you are not used to, you don't want to overdo it on the grass, especially when it's heavy.

We need to ensure the players have a full tank of petrol for another very physical game tonight.

So it was an extremely light week physically but the senior players drove the mental intensity.

IMPROVEMENTS

The last time we played Cardiff it was a case of giving two points away with the draw. We have made a lot of improvements as a team since that game in Round 5 and we are constantly building week to week.

So after scoring seven tries against Treviso, our key driver has been to keep our feet firmly on the ground and stay process-focused for Cardiff.

If we execute the plan that we have worked on this week it will give us a great chance of getting the points we need to keep going in the right direction.

Cardiff had a fantastic win at home against Edinburgh last weekend and we know how dangerous they can be. They played more of an expansive game, stretching the Edinburgh defence and scoring some quality tries.

When you change your coach mid-season it can take time to adapt but it can have an immediate and positive effect on the players as well and it certainly did for the Cardiff players.

It is important that we are prepared for this and also adjust to the 4G pitch quickly. We have talked about it at length this week and we have gone over what other challenges we are going to face, preparing accordingly.

Ultimately we have got to embrace it head on and overcome it on the day.

It was great to see Ireland getting that result against England on Sunday. I had said before the game that this will be massive for Irish Rugby when you consider the four provinces in the Pro12 are in the top six - the national side were able to make it ten wins in a row.

Our local hero Robbie Henshaw had another fantastic performance, getting man of the match and touching down for Ireland's only try. We are all very proud of him and that sort of form is certainly making people around the world stand up and take notice, but it doesn't surprise any of us here in Connacht as we see the hard work put in by Robbie daily.

Another one of the greats of Connacht Rugby got some extremely sad news during the week - Michael Swift's father, Jim, passed away on Monday and all of Connacht want to send their deepest condolences to Michael and his mother, Frances, during this tough time.

I was really proud of Swifty and how he has stayed strong and comforted his mum to give his dad a great send-off at his funeral on Wednesday. Jim was a loving husband and an inspirational dad who was very proud of his son Swifty and all his achievements.

He was a massive Connacht supporter and he would always have an encouraging word and a warm smile for myself, and all the team - win or lose. We are certainly going to miss him around here but his son Swifty will continue to drive his legacy.

His final resting place looks out to the Sportsground so he can continue to enjoy even greater times ahead for Connacht Rugby.

Irish Independent