Lam faces tough choices to finalise next season’s squad

Connacht's Ronan Loughney pulls away from Munster's Dave Kilcoyne in action from the Rabo DrirectPro12 game at the Sportsground on Saturday. Photo:-Mike Shaughnessy

Connacht's Ronan Loughney pulls away from Munster's Dave Kilcoyne in action from the Rabo DrirectPro12 game at the Sportsground on Saturday. Photo:-Mike Shaughnessy

Connacht coach Pat Lam says some current players will be moving on as he continues to finalise his squad for next year.

Having already signed two Super 15 players, hooker/prop Tom McCartney, whom he coached at the Blues, and centre Bundee Aki from the Chiefs, Lam says their experience will be vital in helping his side achieve Heineken Cup status - and overcome fellow Irish provinces in the future.

Having lost to both Ulster and Munster in the last two weeks, Lam says his squad will not be defined by those defeats.

"We definitely wanted the win, but you cannot suddenly go from five international caps to 20 like Munster. We only have one current international player, that is the fact, but we are hoping in the years to come, we will have more," he says.

Frustratingly, Lam, has been without his first choice XV the entire season, and again last weekend in their 32-23 loss to Munster was forced to dip into Nigel Carolan's academy.

“You need a squad to do well in these competitions. We’re using a lot of players. Sometimes guys are getting selected because, unfortunately, there’s not enough pressure [for jerseys] because of injuries.

"Our player budget is the same as last year and my responsibility to Connacht is to get the best possible team. I have to look at the depth chart, making sure a No 3 can realistically challenge for the top spot, and also who is in the academy for cover. As a result some players will have to move. The hardest bit is making those calls because careers are on the line, but I have to go back to the vision for Connacht and my responsibility to the rugby board and the people to have the best."

Connacht’s defeat to Munster leaves them 12 points back from sixth place Scarlets, and Connacht must now focus on a victory over Cardiff next weekend in order to keep them in contention for a best-placed finish.

Against Munster individual errors once again proved costly having opened the scoring with a Miah Nikora penalty. However Munster replied immediately with an Andrew Conway try but Matt Healy struck minutes later to keep Connacht in contention.

Crucially former Connacht outhalf Ian Keatley kept Munster’s scoreboard ticking over, and while Danie Poolman was unlucky not to score in the right corner, Connacht gifted Munster’s Gerhard van den Heever an intercept try. Before the break Denis Hurley’s try was a killer blow from which Connacht would never recover.

 

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