The selection of five Connacht players for Ireland's summer tour is a well-timed fillip for Pat Lam's squad ahead of Saturday's crunch Champions Cup playoff with Northampton.
Finlay Bealham, Dave Heffernan, Tiernan O’Halloran, Kieran Marmion and John Cooney were all included in Joe Schmidt’s squad for the tour of the US and Japan.
After a disappointing end to their reign as Guinness Pro12 champions, losing to Munster by 50-14, Lam says Franklin’s Gardens is now a great platform for all his players to perform.
“This is it, this what we aimed for. When you lose by 50 points, there were questions that were asked, and you couldn’t get a better game than this where we need to answer those questions, because if we don’t, our season will end this weekend.”
Lam says there were “key” elements in the Munster game that the squad were “all embarrassed by”.
“To get a 50-point against you, something is particularly wrong, so I spent more time than usual looking hard, and I just showed the players and asked the questions, and already I am seeing a response.”
Several key players are back training this week, including Niyi Adeleokun, Matt Healy, and Ultan Dillane, all of whom are expected to feature, either as starters or off the bench, while Andrew Browne (calf) and Tom Farrell (groin) will be monitored this week.
“There are a lot of things to factor in. Ultan has been out nearly 10 weeks, Healy has been out 11 weeks, Niyi four or five weeks. We’ll have to weigh up all those things. No doubt we have a few guys who are injured and with Bundee [Aki] not available [through suspension], we have an issue in the backs, but hopefully, they will be in contention.”
Also integrating into training are Marnitz Boshoff (head injury), Steve Crosbie (shoulder), and Peter Robb (hip).