Pat Lam to seek permission to add player to Connacht squad

Connacht coach is facing “a real headache” to produce a fit squad of 23 due to injuries

Connacht coach Pat Lam is to appeal to the European tournament organisers to permit the addition of another back player to his squad.

With the second of the back-to-back fixtures taking place in Newcastle on Sunday, Lam is facing “a real headache” to produce a fit squad of 23.

“Obviously we are going to have to look and see who rocks up in training, and if we had lost another player against Newcastle, we would have had to field with 21 or 22.

“We have already brought Shane O’Leary in so hopefully they, the EPCR, can bend the rules and let us get a some extra players in our squad.”

Last week Lam added add recent returnee Shane O’Leary who has not featured all season by de-registering the season-injured flanker Nepia Fox Matamua. But under EPCR rules teams can only make one back line change during the pool stages.

In Friday evening's 25-10 victory over Newcastle in the Challenge Cup which keeps Connacht top of pool one, Lam had just 11 fit back players. However before kick-off captain Tiernan O'Halloran was forced to withdraw with a calf injury, and Matt Healy took over at fullback, having played scrumhalf the previous week with the loss of Kieran Marmion and Ian Porter.

On Friday Dave McSharry came onto the bench, but having only returned from suffering concussion in an Eagles match, he was forced to leave the field after just 30 seconds at the end of the match with another head knock.

Lam is now looking to include another Academy and local Galwegian player, fullback Ciaran Gaffney, but he accepts at the moment the only position Connacht are allowed to bring in is a front rower.

“When there are so many players out for the rest of the pool stages, the rules are we can bring in two - we’ve used one (Shane O’Leary], but the other has to be a front row which we don’t need. It is crazy if we don’t get a change, we might be going in with 20/21 players, and do we do that?

"We don't want to bring in anyone from overseas, we understand the rules we - just want to bring in someone from our squad. When you lose three fullbacks, Robbie Henshaw, Tiernan O'Halloran, and Darragh Leader, we have Ciarn Gaffney training with us, and when we couldn't bring him in, it was frustrating. Hopefully commonsense will prevail for the good of the safety really."

Despite the injuries Connacht ground out a victory over the Falcons with a host of Academy players in the match-day XV.

“ I am very very proud of the guys. It has just been horrendous with the amount of injuries, and then losing O’Halloran , our fullback and captain. Matt Healy, who has never played there, did a great job,, and with six Academy boys in there as well.

"We had to grind it out, it was tough game, the conditions were really soft underfoot, and we put some pressure on, but didn't quite finish things off, and Ithought ' here we go again, another dogfight', and it was. Fair play to Jack Carty whose kicking was good and kept the scoreboard ticking, before we pulled away with that try."