No excuses not to win, says Lam 

Connacht are back in the Galway Sportsground on Saturday (5pm ) to face a Cardiff side that has always proven thorny opposition in the Guinness Pro 12.

It is hard to forget last year's draw at home and then the controversial one-point loss eight minutes into injury time in Arms Park, but coach Pat Lam insists it is all about the points on offer, not the opposition.

"The Cardiff game certainly last year was frustrating for us, but it's a new season and we are back home. Every game is important, that was the realisation last season -  to get so close - rather than who we are playing. Whether it's Cardiff or Leinster, we just know   these games are going to count at the end," Lam says.

Connacht have too often let games slide against this side, and it is three seasons since they have beaten the Blues. However, says Lam, there will be no excuses this time round.

"We know the challenge we face. We have high expectations of ourselves in our third season together. We have worked hard, continued to make improvements day by day and game by game, and there are certainly no excuses for us if we don't win the game.

"Cardiff are a far stronger team this year, much better on defence and everything, so it is a big battle -  looking forward to it.

"After a relatively good start against the Dragons and then a good second half against Glasgow, we haven't played for a couple of weeks so everyone is rearing to go. While we got two points against Glasgow, we were gutted to have missed out on another three, and with this one, another home game at the Sportsground in which we take a lot of pride, it's four or five points on offer, and we need the points."

Lam once again has his fair share of injury woes. Lock Ben Marshall is sidelined for another six weeks, having fractured an bone in his arm at Scotstoun, while flanker/No 8 Eoghan Masterson pulled a hamstring in training last week and will not be risked this weekend.

In the backs it was tough luck for Dave McSharry. The centre, who was out for long periods last season with a knee injury, had only just returned to action, is ruled out again. This time McSharry broke his finger lining out for UCD in the Ulster Bank League on Saturday, and after undergoing surgery yesterday, is expected to be out for up to eight weeks. Fellow centre Shane O'Leary also suffered playing for his club Galwegians and is ruled out with concussion.

However there is some good news. No 8 Eoin McKeon, fullback Darragh Leader, and wing Niyi Adeolokun have returned to full training and will be available for selection for this vital third round Pro 12 fixture.  Leader and Adeolokun's availability will certainly boost Lam's backline options, with Danie Poolman, Craig Ronaldson and Rory Parata all able to play in the centre alongside Bundee Aki.

Connacht should have taken the spoils last year, both home and away, and the 18-17 defeat in Cardiff was a bitter pill to swallow. The frustration felt by Pat Lam in the aftermath of that defeat was understandable, and was crucial in Connacht's bid for Champions Cup rugby. As a result Connacht cannot afford to slip up again. They have shown in the first two games their confidence in scoring, and with a solid set piece, strong discipline, and the home crowd, there is no reason why they cannot add to their strong  opening this season. 

"We currently sit in fourth place, we are frustrated that we are not in first place after the second game, but we know we have to push on and get some more points this week. We are playing at home and we enjoy playing at home, so the bottom line it is an opportunity to get points." 

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