Depleted Connacht targeting a third successive win

Coach Pat Lam battling with an 11-strong injury list including Kiwi flanker Craig Clarke

Connacht’s Kieran Marmion in action against Zebre. Marmion will win his 50th Connacht cap when they take on  Treviso today. Photo: Francesca Soli/Inpho

Connacht’s Kieran Marmion in action against Zebre. Marmion will win his 50th Connacht cap when they take on Treviso today. Photo: Francesca Soli/Inpho

Sat, Mar 1, 2014, 06:00

Reasons to be cheerful in March? Connacht are poised to win three matches in a row, which should spring them up the Pro 12 ladder, all done with two swashbuckling young props growing with each engagement.

The form of Denis Buckley and especially Rodney Ah You has been encouraging. Add the return of Robbie Henshaw from Ireland’s periphery and the soon-to-be London Irish centre Eoin Griffin coupled with Kieran Marmion hitting a half century of caps, aged just 22, and you would nearly overlook the continued absence of Craig Clarke.

“It’s also such a great achievement for young Kieran to have reached the 50-cap milestone,” said Pat Lam. “The fact that he has played 50 consecutive games since his senior debut is testament to his ability, his durability and his sheer toughness”.

Still the loss of Clarke will loom large over the remainder of Connacht’s campaign. So long as he remains on the sidelines, having been concussed 10 times over a 22-month period, they are a lesser force.

It has been six weeks since Connacht had to put their captain on ice without any return date. That he arrived with the condition is the most concerning aspect of it all.

Clarke’s addition to an 11-strong injury list further highlights the lack of foreign assistance in the Connacht ranks. Granted, Danie Poolman and Miah Nikora are on the bench this evening but Jake Heenan’s loss is felt the most. The young Kiwi flanker was having a superb debut season in Galway and Willie Faloon is also still in recovery.

No matter. John Muldoon is as passionate a captain as the westerners have ever known and Treviso, even with seven players released by Italy, look ripe for the picking.

“This week, coming up against Treviso, has been all about focus. . . ,” Lam added.

“Going into the break we want to finish off this block of games on a high – for us and for our supporters.”

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