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Lam: 'Looking at it, we don't believe it's a case of 'backing up' the Munster win, but rather a case of being even better again in our performance this week'

Lam: 'Looking at it, we don't believe it's a case of 'backing up' the Munster win, but rather a case of being even better again in our performance this week'

SPORTSFILE

Lam: 'Looking at it, we don't believe it's a case of 'backing up' the Munster win, but rather a case of being even better again in our performance this week'

Often after a notable victory, certain buzz words are bandied about but when Robbie Henshaw spoke earlier this week about the "growth" and the "confidence" within the Connacht squad, a glance at the Western province's progress would support the 21-year-old's thoughts.

He may be unmoved by speculation linking him with a move to Leinster but then again why should he be? He is the fulcrum of an exciting team on the rise and with his best years still to come, he isn't about to rush into anything.

Gone are the days when teams arrive in Galway expecting to pick up four points and Connacht's unbeaten home record at the Sportsground this season is a testament to that.

Pat Lam has worked wonders but, make no mistake about it, this is an ongoing project that is far from complete.

LUXURY

Champions Cup qualification is the major goal for the remainder of the season but while they aren't playing in Europe's premier tournament, Lam has been afforded the luxury of resting his key players during the Challenge Cup.

Edinburgh are the latest side to attempt to breach the fortress that is the Sportsground and they themselves will be buoyed by last weekend's win over Glasgow Warriors.

Lam described his side's triumph over Munster as their "best win of the season", pointing to the team performance - just as he has done all season.

The New Zealander isn't one to let his emotions get away from him and his summation of Connacht's progress to date typifies that.

"We're effectively a year and a half down the track and we're certainly heading in the right direction."

An early contender for understatement of the year but, nevertheless, they are words of a man who has brought a renewed sense of belief and confidence to the province.

"While there was a lot of excitement around last week's result, at the end of the day it was four points gained and we need another four points this week," Lam said ahead of this evening's visit of an Edinburgh side who sit just two places below them in eighth.

"Looking at it, we don't believe it's a case of 'backing up' the Munster win, but rather a case of being even better again in our performance this week."

With that in mind, Lam has made just one enforced change to his match-day squad with former Lansdowne out-half Craig Ronaldson missing out with concussion.

Miah Nikora comes into the starting XV to partner Connacht's top try scorer this season Kieran Marmion at half-back, while Jack Carty is included amongst the replacements. Henshaw and Bundee Aki continue their exciting partnership in midfield with All Black centurion Mils Muliaina at full-back.

The forward pack that performed so well against Munster is unchanged, meaning that No 8 Eoin McKeon will make his 60th appearance for his home province.

"Edinburgh, under astute coach Alan Solomons, are a very powerful and direct team who have shown against top teams like Glasgow and Munster away from home what they are capable of," Lam added.

The Scots have made just two changes with WP Nel and Hamish Watson both coming into the staring team.

Protecting their proud unbeaten home record is a major incentive for Connacht under Lam. They may have to be patient against a typically stubborn Edinburgh side but their 'confidence' and 'growth' should shine through in the end, allowing them to further their progress. Verdict: Connacht

Connacht - M Muliaina; D Leader, R Henshaw, B Aki, D Poolman; M Nikora, K Marmion; D Buckley, T McCartney, R Ah You; Q Roux, A Muldowney; J Muldoon ©, W Faloon, E McKeon. Reps: D Heffernan, R Loughney, F Bealham, U Dillane, G Naoupu, J Cooney, J Carty, D McSharry.

Edinburgh - J Cuthbert; D Fife, M Scott, P Burleigh, T Visser; G Tonks, S Hidalgo-Clyne; A Dickinson, R Ford, WP Nel; A Bressler, B Toolis; R Grant, H Watson, D Denton. Reps: N Cochrane, R Sutherland, J Andress, F McKenzie, T Leonardi, S Kennedy, J Te Rure, A Strauss.

Ref - L Hodges (Wales)

Connacht v Edinburgh

Live, TG4, 7.35

Irish Independent