Friday 20 April 2018

Pat Lam: Tricky test in Wales can lift us after tough run

Pat Lam keeps a close eye on his Connacht players during training. Photo: Sportsfile
Pat Lam keeps a close eye on his Connacht players during training. Photo: Sportsfile

Pat Lam

Looking at the Pro12 table you can see what a great competition this is. Only four points separate the top six teams and every game carries so much importance.

At the half-way point we are third in the table, only two points off the league leaders Scarlets, who we face this week.

There is always a lot of talk of 'winning streaks' and 'losing streaks' but I don't focus on that.

Obviously we are disappointed with the outcome of the last three Pro12 games and I would be concerned if there was a clear drop-off in performance and focus. But that is not the case.

When I look back at the body language and the effort put in by the boys, I am really impressed.

Guys tackling hard, getting back on their feet quickly, working into position off the ball are things that we look at.

The defensive commitment and attitude at the RDS in horrific conditions last week was tremendous. We came up short but took a lot of learnings from that game and against a side stacked full of internationals.

How did we get into certain situations? We gave away six points from being offside and jumping the gun early. We didn't control the ball at crucial times.

Having opted to play into the conditions for the first half, we were pleased to go in just 3-0 down and the energy at half time was great.


The second-half was all about playing the game in their half but when we look at it, every time we got in there we either turned the ball over or were penalised.

It wasn't until after 56 minutes that we had a genuine effort in their half that we could attack from and we knocked the ball on. Then we made a few errors in a row, and all of sudden they're down five metres from our try line.

It was an unbelievable defensive effort, but ultimately, the try was given - and we have to look at the fact that they got down due to our mistakes. That's the learnings we have to take and we have to look at how we can be more ruthless.

All in all it was another missed opportunity but there are a lot of positives and now we head over to Scarlets which, similar to Ospreys until this season, is a place we have never won. But that earlier win in Wales gives us confidence, as does the game-plan the coaching team have put in place.

Against Scarlets, it's about making sure we are all extremely clear on the plan. Every bit of the work we did this week, collectively and as individuals, is crucial in terms of going into this game on Sunday with confidence.

There is no doubt that Scarlets will be up for this game. They're top of the table but will be frustrated with their recent losses. They've got quality players and are a well-coached side under Wayne Pivac. It's an early kick off of 2:30 and we can't wait for it.

This is the most challenging time of the season. You have teams with players fighting hard to impress for Six Nations selection and the weather conditions are at their worst. It can be a bit of a slug-fest and it helps the teams with a big squad of players work with.

We have Scarlets either side of the Challenge Cup games before the 16-match run of games comes to an end. It's a big month and we are fully focused on getting as much as possible from all of those games.

Earlier this week, we announced senior contracts for two more academy players. Peter Robb and Sean O'Brien will both officially join the senior squad next season, along with James Connolly, Shane Delahunt and Rory Parata. These players have made massive progress and we are really pleased with where they are at in terms of their rugby.

They have all been with us since pre-season having been identified by the coaching team and Nigel Carolan as players with the potential to step up

The retention plan at Connacht Rugby is going really well and it's exciting looking forward. We want to keep building the squad.

Everyone knows our big goal is to be playing Champions Cup rugby next season and we don't want to simply make up the numbers, we want to compete. So to do that we need a quality squad and that's what we are working on.

While we are always looking forward, the main focus is on the game this weekend and another four points up for grabs.

Irish Independent

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