Pat Lam believes Kiwi legend Mils can be the Thorn in his Connacht side
Connacht coach Pat Lam believes that All Black legend Mils Muliaina could have the same influence on the province as his World Cup winning colleague Brad Thorn had on Leinster.
The 33-year-old Muliaina, who won 100 caps for his country before retiring after their World Cup triumph in 2011, arrived at Shannon Airport yesterday but won’t be available to play until late October because of a shoulder complaint.
However, Lam, who coached the player while at Auckland Blues, has already assigned his former charge with a crucial leadership role for his mostly inexperienced back-line.
“He wanted time to settle in but when you have a guy who’s won that many caps with the All Blacks and was so important with me as a leader with Auckland, it will be great to have that experience on board,” he said. “It will be hugely important for guys like Robbie Henshaw, Darragh Leader and Jack Carty to have a sounding board like that and I think he can have a significant influence.
“If you look elsewhere, Gordon D’Arcy has spoken of the influence that Brad Thorn has had on Leinster. Isa Nacewa has had a huge influence there also. So it’s something that’s been done before.
“I know what Mils can bring. That’s the beauty of me having a second year here because I knew we lacked experience out wide, especially in terms of leadership.
“His whole role is not to be the saviour. He has a wider brief around what he can contribute.
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“Ultimately, Connacht is an integral part of Irish rugby and it’s on a high at the moment. The IRFU have put a lot of resources into Connacht, this time I have three assistant coaches whereas last year I had only one.
“Now we have the facilities and the staff. That’s why they signed Mils off, they know that the investment is worth it in terms of what he can do for our young Irish players.
“With that investment comes a pressure to achieve results and we know we need to fulfil that side of the bargain.”
And with that, Lam proffers what he feels may be a barometer for western performance.
“If Connacht qualify for Europe and Leinster win the Pro12, which will the rugby public think is the biggest achievement? We all know what the answer is.
“That would be a massive kudos for us because we want to be world-class. If we can over-achieve, that’s massive for the organisation.”
Connacht will also welcome hooker Tom McCartney and centre Bundee Aki from New Zealand in October.