Thursday 20 June 2019

Lam calls on Connacht to defy the odds in final push

Connacht’s Robbie Henshaw will be looking to continue his budding partnership with Bundee Aki at centre today. Ramsey Cardy / SPORTSFILE
Connacht’s Robbie Henshaw will be looking to continue his budding partnership with Bundee Aki at centre today. Ramsey Cardy / SPORTSFILE
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

FRONT-RUNNERS for so long this season, this is moving day for Connacht and they need an unlikely win over the team who led the league into round 20 to sustain their challenge.

The schedule has not been kind to Pat Lam whose team face two of the top four in their last three games and need a result over one of them if they are to play European Champions Cup rugby next season.

Lam has picked as strong a team as he possibly can given his long list of absentees, but will have looked at the side named by Gregor Townsend with a degree of trepidation.

This is the hardest game any of the teams chasing sixth face this weekend, but the Samoan reckons it should get his charges going.

"The odds are certainly stacked against us but that is why we all play this game and that is what our guys are excited by it - that's another challenge," he said.


"It's not necessarily the underdog, that sort of thing. It's just that at this time of the year with the three rounds to go, round 20.

"We have so much to play for we are back on our Sportsground again and we are excited by the challenge we face.

"If we are not at our best as individuals and then collectively as a team it is going to be a real tough day - so that has been a real focus for us."

He'll be hoping that Robbie Henshaw and Bundee Aki can continue their budding partnership outside the recalled Jack Carty who will be looking to exorcise memories of his last start against Gloucester.

Lam will have worked hard on his team's start and will pray the early kick-off won't catch them short at lunchtime.

On their last outing, Ulster punished their errors ruthlessly and a Warriors side packed with strong runners and clever operators like back-three Stuart Hogg, Tommy Seymour and Niko Matawalu, behind a pack led by the excellent skipper Jonny Gray, will do likewise.

With Finn Russell directing traffic, the Scots will be confident of being able to play in the right areas, but Connacht have done a job on packs as good as Glasgow already this season and John Muldoon and Co will look to disrupt their visitors at source.

"We talked about what happened against Ulster here in the sense of, we just had a couple of lapses in concentration and it was like a double-blow before half-time and the same thing would happen here," Lam added.

"So all training has been focused around being sharp, around looking after ball, around trying to be error-free and doing our roles because we are going to need it this week."

The formlines show Connacht on a run of four successive defeats, with Glasgow coming in on the back of five wins out of their last six games and the odds are on the Warriors continuing their fine run to stay in front in the race for the play-offs.

Despite the usual talk about how tough the Sportsground can be to visit from Townsend, Glasgow have a good record in Galway and are well used to the vagaries of the local weather.

Connacht are relying on their big names for big performances, while they need to cut out the mistakes.

If Tom McCartney can continue his excellent accuracy out of touch, Kieran Marmion can get the backs moving and Aki and Henshaw can create opportunities for themselves and Matt Healy in the wide channels, they'll have a shot.

Verdict: Glasgow Warriors

CONNACHT - T O'Halloran; D Poolman, R Henshaw, B Aki, M Healy; J Carty, K Marmion; D Buckley, T McCartney, R Ah You; U Dillane, A Muldowney; J Muldoon (capt), E Masterson, E McKeon. Replacements: S Delahunt, R Loughney, F Bealham, A Browne, G Naoupu, J Cooney, M Nikora, D Leader.

GLASGOW WARRIORS - S Hogg; T Seymour, R Vernon, P Horne, N Matawalu; F Russell, H Pyrgos; J Yanuyanutawa, F Brown, E Murray; L Nakarawa, J Gray (capt); R Harley, C Fusaro, A Ashe. Replacements: K Bryce, R Grant, J Welsh, T Swinson, J Strauss, D Weir, P Murchie, L Jones.

Ref - M Mitrea (Italy)

Connacht v Glasgow Warriors, Live, TG4, 1.05

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