Lam hopeful as Clarke faces new scan
Connacht skipper Craig Clarke is to undergo a scan early next month to determine if he can resume playing.
The career of the lock-forward, signed on a three-year deal to replace Irish international Mike McCarthy, is hanging in the balance following a series of concussions.
Clarke has not played for Connacht since he suffered a concussion against Scarlets in the Heineken Cup in January.
That was his 10th such injury in 22 months, sparking fears that the double Super 15-winning skipper could be forced to retire.
Connacht coach Pat Lam, however, is hopeful that he will be able to call on his captain again and insisted he is still playing a huge role for the team off the field. Craig has more scans planned for the beginning of April to check where he's at," said Lam.
"It will certainly give us more clarity.
"It's (his latest concussion) still ongoing. He's been out for a while, but for all players, rugby as a game, it could be gone just like that. You never know, that's just the nature of the game we play.
"It's not ideal for all parties, we know that. But he is a strong character, he really is. I think that's testimony to what he is doing.
"The boys don't see him all glum and hanging down. They see the qualities of the man, helping others, mentoring others, passing on his information, encouraging guys, forming part of the analysis of other teams.
"He's very much part of our leadership group, actually. He's around at training and he's having a big influence off the field. So, he is still around every day," added the Connacht coach.
Meanwhile, another Connacht player, back Kyle Tonetti, has been forced to retire due to ongoing issues with an ankle problem, the latest in a long list of injuries which have hampered his career.
The 26-year-old former Ireland underage player has never played under Lam and has not appeared for the province since February 2013. He said he arrived at his decision after undergoing numerous surgeries and several failed comebacks.
"I'm obviously very disappointed to have to make this decision at this stage of my career. After exhausting all options and going through numerous surgeries, I have come to terms with the fact that I will not be playing at this level again," said Tonetti.
"I've really enjoyed my time at Connacht and I'm disappointed I haven't been able to contribute as much as I had hoped.
"Over the last number of months, being unable to play, I've had some time to prepare for this and I'm anxious and excited to move on to the next stage of my career, something all players have to do at some point in their lives.
"I believe there are great times ahead for the club under Pat Lam and the other coaches and I wish Connacht the very best of luck in the future.
"I look forward to watching on as a supporter," added Tonetti.