Pat Lam urges Connacht to ‘protect’ the Sportsground
Robbie Henshaw remains out as weakened Bayonne travel for Challenge Cup clash
Fans must wait to see Bundee Aki alongside Henshaw in the centre as Dave McSharry partners him for Saturday’s match. Photograph: INPHO/Cathal Noonan
This looks like a dud Bayonne side. No Joe Rokocoko or Santiago Fernandez with Mark Chisholm on the bench. That’s 158 test caps missing from the starting XV. But the only absence that really lessens a Connacht fixture nowadays is Robbie Henshaw.
The Galway public must continue to wait for the moment when Pat Lam pairs the newly established Ireland centre with the bundle of power and energy that is Bundee Aki. The former Waikato Chief will instead link up with Dave McSharry on Saturday, as Henshaw rehabilitates a hip injury sustained in the car crash collisions of the Autumn Internationals.
Jack Carty runs out at outhalf with Mils Muliaina at fullback in a perfect example of the new Connacht way – homegrown young talent combining with an All Black centurion.
The injury prone Quinn Roux, on loan from Leinster, is selected at lock but remains a concern due to ankle trouble.
Exeter have control of this Pool but one of Lam’s mantras must still be adhered to:
“Protecting our home ground is one of our main priorities and that drive continues this week. We have chosen a strong side to face Bayonne in what is our last home game of the year.
“We’ve stated top six in the Pro12 as a big goal but we also have other aspirations to reach the knock-out stages in the Challenge Cup.
“Bayonne are a good side who have taken some big scalps in the Top 14 this season, namely Toulouse and Clermont. There are no easy wins in this pool and we are expecting a bruising battle on Saturday against a physically massive team.”