Lam uhappy with change of fixture
Connacht coach says squad had to do too much travelling before narrow defeat
Connacht captain John Muldoon and coach Pat Lam during the Ulster v Connacht Pro12 game at Kingspan Stadium, Belfast, on St Stephen’s Day. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
Connacht coach Pat Lam has expressed disappointment at this season’s annual St Stephen’s Day fixture being rearranged to take place against Ulster in Belfast. The schedule change - in previous years Connacht have met Munster - required a bus journey to Shannon airport and then a flight, to avoid travelling on Christmas Day.
“It took us three and half hours to drive to Shannon and then get on a plane,” said Lam after the 13-10 defeat to Ulster. The Connacht squad and management then had to embark on a late-night road trip home to Galway.
To add to their troubles, the province’s injury list was stretched to 12 after the last-minute withdrawals of Ronan Loughney and Quinn Roux. “Ronan did his back and Quinn rolled his ankle in the warm-up,” Lam said. “But I have to say, young Ultan Dillane was superb. He was nervous, so I just told him it’s just a bigger stage but the same old stuff. Just do your thing. I thought he was tremendous out there, really physical. He’s another boy with a big future.”
Dillane, from Tralee RFC, came through the Munster youth system.
At least their first-ever bonus point at Ravenhill keeps Connacht sixth in the Pro 12 table, four points behind Leinster, while Robbie Henshaw, Mils Muliaina, Kieran Marmion and Rodney Ah You should all return to the starting XV to face Munster at the Sportsground on New Year’s Day.
As to the officiating of John Lacey, Lam said: “I have found in my time here that, in the interpros, we always get the toughest calls [against us]. I’ll go to the clips and give them to Ed Morrison [Pro 12 referee consultant] and he will give feedback to the officials.”
Meanwhile, Ulster confirmed that Luke Marshall’s late withdrawal last Friday was due to a tummy bug.
Marshall is expected to be available to play Leinster, but he will struggle to remove Stuart Olding, who impressed in attack and at the breakdown, especially in the crucial 80th-minute turnover.
Earlier, Craig Gilroy really should have been stopped before twisting past four defenders for the try that ultimately kept Connacht at bay but, like the Marshall/Olding rivalry, his impressive performance matters in a Six Nations context . The winger remains an injury or two away from featuring in Rome on February 8th.