Connacht hope to spoil Mauro Bergamasco’s farewell

Pat Lam’s side need win in Italy to maintain outside hopes of Champions Cup qualification

Connacht coach Pat Lam has made one change to the side that lost at home to Glasgow. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Connacht coach Pat Lam has made one change to the side that lost at home to Glasgow. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

 

have been academic end-of-season league fixtures than this meeting of 12th and eighth.

Indeed, Connacht find themselves drinking in the last-chance saloon if they are to entertain hopes of qualifying for next season’s European Champions Cup, whether through sixth place or via the play-offs in seventh.

Favours A run of four successive defeats has seen them slip out of the automatic qualification places, and they now trail Edinburgh and Scarlets by four and five points. In all probability

, they need wins here (quite possibly with a bonus point) and at home to the Ospreys next Saturday, as well as favours elsewhere.

Pat Lam makes one change to the Connacht starting XV which lost 13-31 to Glasgow at home last time out, with scrumhalf John Cooney picked ahead of Kieron Marmion. Academy outhalf Conor McKeon is named on the bench and the 21-year-old former Gonzaga College schoolboy is in line to earn his first cap for the province.

“We all know how crucial this game against Zebre is,” said Lam. “It’s must-win territory if we want to keep our hopes of Champions Cup qualification alive.”

Zebre themselves have every bit as much to play for, as they trail Treviso in what looks like being an annual battle at the foot of the table for Italy’s sole representation in the Champions Cup.

They will also bring plenty of emotional energy to the occasion too, with a number of players making their last home appearance for the club, including the iconic Mauro Bergamasco, who will retire from club rugby after next week’s game in Cardiff.

It’s been some journey – all of 18 years – and he won’t want to bow out on a losing note.

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