Saturday 21 April 2018

Pat Lam: We're ready to meet the Gloucester challenge

Connacht’s Kieran Marmion is tackled by Darragh Leader during training ahead of the game against Gloucester
Connacht’s Kieran Marmion is tackled by Darragh Leader during training ahead of the game against Gloucester

Pat Lam

I think we were all pretty disappointed after the game in Thomond Park because we knew that score didn't reflect who we are and what we're about as a team.

We probably missed a few opportunities as well when we were at 7-6 with 55 minutes gone and then they punished us.

We missed out on an opportunity to score and from the next lineout they mauled us and went direct, going 40 metres to score their second try. That was one of the most disappointing things for us, especially as we've been so good in our maul and team defence up until that point and we just switched off.

That gave them the chance to build up their intensity and fair play to them they capitalised on it. Then we compounded our errors even more by missing touch and gave away a penalty. In the space of two minutes instead of being five metres from their line, we were five metres from our own line.

But all in all, once we fell behind we were playing catch up rugby and there were a couple of bounces that didn't go our way which resulted in another two relatively soft tries.

At the end of the day we reviewed the game and it's always the same process win or lose - we have been through it many times. What we highlighted was opportunities we didn't take and the drop in intensity to allow some of those tries to go in. Identifying that is the most important thing going forward.

So we will take the lessons, park the Pro 12 for the time being. We know we have got four massive games to go there but we're still in sixth place and it's in our control and we've got three home games. Obviously it's three tough ones but we'll deal with that next week. We've got a quarter-final to deal with today.

This week saw the announcement that Mils Muliaina is joining Zebre next season and we certainly wish him all the best with the move.

Even in one quick year, Mils has made a lasting contribution to Connacht rugby. His influence on and off the field with our young squad has been invaluable and I know the players, particularly the backs, have benefited from his vast experience. A big part of our growth as a team this season has been around challenging each other to reach higher standards and Mils was massive in driving this.

He has really embraced the Connacht culture and he's made a big effort to get out amongst the community and I know the supporters have enjoyed meeting and getting to know him.

For me personally it was fantastic to have the opportunity to work with him again.

We have Robbie Henshaw coming back for us at Kingsholm this evening and of course he's our one current international so it's huge to have that experience in your side. He had a good break after the Six Nations win and he showed a lot of energy this week in training - it brings a lot of confidence to the guys when they see that.

But on the flip-side you are coming up against a side like Gloucester who are jam-packed full of internationals. They are a big team and having been to Kingsholm as a player myself, I know it's quite a special place to play rugby and a great atmosphere.

This is Gloucester's only pathway to Europe, to get a play-off spot, so we know they definitely won't be taking anything for granted against us.

They're going to be up for it but these are the games that you play for at this level. There's a big carrot on the end of it - the possibility of getting a home semi-final in a European competition.

That would be massive for the people of Connacht and would attract a big attendance to the Sportsground if we could pull it off. We know the size of the challenge awaiting us but we're excited by it and we're going to have to build on what we did well against Munster.

Only 16 teams are playing in Europe this weekend and fortunately we are there through the hard work we've put in during the year. We're excited to be there and to fly the Irish colours in the Challenge Cup. We are heading there with a lot of confidence and a lot of belief. A win would be massive and it would be great for the fans as well. I know we've got big travelling support as usual and we have a huge incentive with the home semi-final for the winner.

But we understand we are the eighth seeds for the quarter-finals, they qualified number one. They are undefeated in this year's competition and they are class team really. It's a big challenge but one we're up for.

Irish Independent

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