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Monday 19 February 2018

Lam refusing to let injuries be an excuse as Falcons fly in

Pat Lam is not allowing his lengthy injury list to become an excuse for his squad
Pat Lam is not allowing his lengthy injury list to become an excuse for his squad
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Connacht's squad is being tested to the maximum at the moment but Pat Lam is not allowing his lengthy injury list to become an excuse for his squad, who can make a move towards the quarter-finals with a win at the Sportsground tonight (7.45).

Victory over a much-changed Newcastle Falcons side would put the Westerners in control at the top of Pool 1 and, with Dean Richards' men battling relegation on the domestic front and facing a trip to Leicester on St Stephen's Day, they may choose to rest players for the return game.

So, this is an opportunity for the depleted Connacht squad, with Lam urging the likes of Peter Robb and Rory Parata in the centre to grasp their chance in the way James Connolly has in recent weeks.

Lam is down 18 bodies, including internationals Robbie Henshaw and Kieran Marmion and captain John Muldoon, but he says the squad is strong enough to survive.

"We can't dwell on it (the injuries). We just adjust and get the group out, we make the most of this week, and it is a mental process," he said.


"James Connolly is a great example of how we adjust: we lost Jake Heenan and Nepia Fox-Matamua, and James came in and stepped up - in two games in a row he has played extremely well.

"The next guys just have to do that. We have always said to everyone that is training with us - you never know when it is going to come, just make sure you are ready."

Tiernan O'Halloran leads the team in Muldoon's absence and is the senior man in a callow backline that includes the novice centres and promising scrum-half Caolin Blade.

The scrum boasts far more experience, with Jason Harris-Wright back in the front-row alongside Finlay Bealham and Nathan White, while George Naoupu joins Sean O'Brien and Connolly in the back-row.

Richards has shuffled his pack for the visit to Galway, making 11 changes to his team that includes former England second-row Mouritz Botha.

The Falcons are using this tournament to offer opportunities to their England-qualified players coming through the ranks, with the majority of the starting XV fielded coming from their academy. That keeps the age profile low on both sides and Connacht might just hold the edge.

Verdict: Connacht

CONNACHT - T O'Halloran (capt); N Adeolokun, R Parata, P Robb, M Healy; J Carty, C Blade; F Bealham, J Harris Wright, N White; U Dillane, A Muldowney; S O'Brien, J Connolly, G Naoupu. Reps: S Delahunt, C O'Donnell, R Ah You, D Qualter, D Heffernan, I Porter, S O'Leary, D Poolman.

Newcastle Falcons - S Hammersley; D Marshall, T Penny, C Harris, Z Kibirige; C Willis, T Takulua; A Rogers, S Lawson, T Vea; W Witty, M Botha; R Mayhew (capt), D Temm, A Hogg. Reps: R Vickers, B Harris, A Foster, C Green, C Chick, R Dawson, J Socino, M Watson.

Ref - T Charabas (France)

Irish Independent

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