Pat Lam believes Connacht team-work will build platform for Pro 12 win over Zebre
Italian side chasing a first victory in the tournament
Connacht coach Pat Lam: “We want the four points, we want the win, but the real focus is on us playing as a team.” Photograph: Inpho
Connacht’s new coach Pat Lam knows there will be massive expectation as his charges face Zebre, a club that has yet to win a match in the Pro 12 since joining the tournament at the beginning of last season. The Irish province will be aiming to ensure that it’s a record that rolls over another week.
Lam has identified the need for Connacht to focus on their performance and patterns to guarantee a good result. He explained: “Everything we have been doing in pre-season has been geared towards today and we are ready to go.
“We know the importance of this game. Zebre are a tough side and are hanging out for a win. But we cannot worry about them. The focus is on us as a team, making sure we do exactly what we have been working on, that we have clarity in our jobs. We want the win, but the real focus is on us playing as a team. If we do that, the chances of getting the four points will increase.”
There is plenty of pace on the wings in Fionn Carr and Matt Healy with Robbie Henshaw at fullback. Outhalf Dan Parks is an experienced game manager and he’ll look to manoeuvre his side around the Sportsground. Michael Swift leads the side while number eight George Naoupu makes his 50th appearance.
The Chiefs Super 15-winning captain Craig Clarke misses out with a calf injury but there are four players on the bench set to make their competitive debuts in hooker Seán Henry, secondrow Aly Muldowney, flanker Jake Heenan and outhalf Craig Ronaldson.
Connacht’s set-piece, ruck and maul defence will need to be good against a side that include a couple of Kiwis including former All Black Brendon Leonard at scrumhalf and a couple of Fijians that will give them more of a rounded game.
Anything other than a Connacht win would constitute a major setback.