Wednesday 13 December 2017

Pat Lam's successor should come from within

Blow of coach's exit can be softened with back-to-back victories over Wasps

Pat Lam will leave Connacht to take over at Bristol next summer
Pat Lam will leave Connacht to take over at Bristol next summer

Johnny O'Connor

I'm still in a bit of shock following the news of Pat Lam's departure to Bristol, but now it's time for Connacht to batten down the hatches and focus on events on the pitch.

Pat's exit clearly will be a distraction but professional sport tends to move fast, and big games sharpen the mind. As I have said many times Connacht is not a one-man organisation and I am confident they can bounce back from this.

Pat has taken Connacht on an incredible journey and he certainly won't be forgotten when he does head to Ashton Gate for 2017-18, where a completely new challenge awaits.

At the very least, he is leaving behind a style of play that Connacht have become known for and that gives them a standard to live up to, as a province and as a club.

Legacy

Lam helped to create that legacy, along with the efforts of the likes of John Muldoon and Eric Elwood. Certainly, he is going to be a big loss but coaches always leave at some stage and this was going to happen some time.

The way you measure a coach's success is by what they leave after themselves, and Lam has certainly brought Connacht to a better footing than they were on when he first took charge in 2013-14, notably with the winning of the Pro12 last season.

But Connacht aren't done yet this season; they have a really good chance in Europe, where they are top of their pool after two games. And who knows what the rest of the Pro12 season might have in store?

But hopefully it won't be too much of a long goodbye.

This Connacht team have potential and that needs to be tapped into further. They need to finish this season well, and then just build on what they have; there is no need for panic.

The question now is, who do Connacht replace Lam with? Do they replace from within? It's very important that they do because they know the systems and structures in place and it's essential they don't stray too far from that.

They need to keep that momentum going because that's how it works. I hope they don't have to look too far outside because the answers are probably within the organisation itself.

And this weekend the players need to keep the momentum flowing on the pitch where they face one of their toughest games in recent memory.

But saying all that it's one they can definitely win.

People fear this Wasps side; they are being hailed as one of the best in Europe, and people think they will crush Connacht.

But having seen bits and pieces of Wasps in recent matches I don't see what the fuss is all about.

There is no doubt about the star quality they possess - world-class players are littered throughout their backline, and the forwards are huge men that will definitely pose a threat with ball in hand - but technically speaking, Connacht have the match of them up front.

And then when it comes to the attacking movement and intricate back-play there aren't too many teams in Europe that possess the speed and skill of this Connacht side.

Not only that, but they have the fantastic staying capabilities that saw them over the line against Toulouse earlier in the competition.

I fully expect Connacht to give Wasps one hell of a game in Ricoh Arena - and I don't think they should be going there looking to avoid a hiding, or just take a losing bonus point.

Fantastic

On the face of it, it would be fantastic to take five points from the back-to-back Champions Cup fixtures, but the potential is massive within Connacht right now and they have some big performances ahead of them.

I don't see why they wouldn't get two wins from two against Wasps. It's a tall order, but after playing some sensational rugby at times against Treviso, and finally learning how to win again, they can pull this off.

Connacht were sublime the first-half against the Italians. It may have been a weak opposition but they still showed how ruthless they can be on their day. More of the same this weekend please.

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