Connacht await fitness test on Craig Clarke ahead of Saturday’s clash against Ulster
Former Chiefs captain trained yesterday for the first time since pre-season friendly against Newcastle
Connacht coach Pat Lam: “We know Ulster are definitely desperate after their two losses, so there is no issue about being fired up.” Photograph: Inpho
Connacht coach Pat Lam will await today’s training session to assess the fitness of new signing Craig Clarke for Saturday’s interprovincial against Ulster.
The former Chiefs captain, who has missed the opening two Pro12 matches with a calf strain, returned to training yesterday for the first time since lining out in the pre-season friendly against Newcastle.
“We are hopeful,” said Lam. “He had his first start back, but he will have scrummaging and more contact (today), so we will see how he is after that.”
However outhalf Miah Nikora will require shoulder surgery and is likely to be out for five months.
“ It’s a big loss losing Miah. We don’t have someone of his experience alongside Dan Parks, but we have to move on and give the other guys an opportunity.”
Former Lansdowne outhalf Craig Ronaldson will once again be expected provide the back up to Parks for the Ulster fixture, which Lam says will be a massive game for both sides.
“We know Ulster are definitely desperate after their two losses, so there is no issue about being fired up.”
Defeats to teams like Cardiff last weekend were missed opportunities for Connacht in their hopes of qualifying for Heineken Cup rugby on their own merit.
He said it was important the Heinenken Cup rugby issues were sorted as soon as possible.
“For rugby in the Northern Hemisphere, there is one competition that is right up there and admired right around the world and that is the Heineken Cup. It would be really detrimental to rugby in the Northern Hemisphere if it is not resolved. For everyone, players and coaches, it is the pinnacle at club level, so it’s massively important to get it sorted.
“Merit-based is the way to go. Whether it is eight for the four countries or another format, we are striving to get there on our own merits, and whatever format, we want to be a part of it.”