Sunday 17 December 2017

With the right shape, we can ride out storm

Injury woes crippling Lam's squad as they prepare for Ospreys test

Tiernan O’Halloran is a picture of dejection after the defeat by Munster. Photo: SPORTSFILE
Tiernan O’Halloran is a picture of dejection after the defeat by Munster. Photo: SPORTSFILE

Johnny O'Connor

A brand new year for Connacht Rugby. 2016 was a great one of unprecedented success, but it slowed towards the end, and hopefully the guys can pick things up against Ospreys tomorrow.

But it's been a bruising few weeks and the injuries have hit Connacht hard with 25 players unavailable prior to the Munster game. For a small squad they can't cope in the face of it.

The more injuries you get, the more players that are risked - they run more plays and training becomes more difficult. It's a hard cycle to get out of.

You have to take some chances that you wouldn't normally, especially when you are trying to get a footing in the league. Connacht are chasing the pack and they need to get wins.

The available players take a bigger workload because you can't sit back, you have to prep and have a tempo for training.

You try little things and sometimes they don't come off. They have got unlucky with injuries and the smaller squad emphasises the extent of the missing contingent.

Connacht can weather the storm with Pat Lam (pictured with Rassie Erasmus) at the helm. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Connacht can weather the storm with Pat Lam (pictured with Rassie Erasmus) at the helm. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

It's hard to get any sort of continuity right now. Connacht were off the pace from the get-go in the league this season, and once that happens you try to push it, and that brings with it its own problems.

As it is, even with a fully fit and healthy squad it's very hard to get back on the pace when you are so far behind.

At times this season Connacht have played fantastic rugby against the top teams. But when you look at the Munster game, they just lacked that shape that would have helped them over the line. They had chances to score, but Munster were more clinical. And that game was done and dusted following Rhys Marshall's Munster try.

If you look at it the Connacht scrum was dominant but the lineout wasn't great. But they still had the platform to go and win that game. When you look at the team Munster brought, Connacht should have had been more confident in themselves. But that was the Munster of old and they were really hard to break down.

LACKED

But Connacht definitely lacked something. We didn't see many pod systems at all against Munster, but that could have been down to the defence they were playing against, because Munster were cutting down the space out wide and looked to play the offside line very well,

Once that happens you have to just take it up and go with the ball. Once Bundee Aki is out of the Connacht team, they haven't got the real game-changing strike runner. He is a massive loss at the moment. He has a line-break in his game every time and that makes a huge difference.

It's a really difficult task in Ospreys this weekend again. Connacht need to get back working within their game plan and insure the execution is there.

They need someone to bring up the tempo of the game again and the ball-carriers need to start breaking tackles and making yards.

With no Bundee in there, you expect that Peter Robb will perform this weekend. It's his second game back, he's a big guy and I want to see him carrying more aggressively.

When you look at him on the pitch he is a physical threat and he can do a lot more damage than he knows.

He needs that one big carry to realise that he is well capable at this level. For someone with those physical attributes you need him to deliver and make the yards for you.

But Ospreys have the ability to shut anyone down. With the way they are going, they will be hard to stop going forward too. They have such strength in depth while all Connacht have is the bare bones of a team and they can't exactly change it up at this stage.

Connacht can only control that, if they don't get their shape right, execute and look after the ball going into contact, it won't matter. You might get one or two chances but if you are not taking them then it's a long way back.

Connacht could definitely win over there, and they can beat anyone no matter what team they put out. They just need to get the shape right first. If they get their preparation right, with a bit of luck, they can win this one.

Irish Independent

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