Lam not resting on his laurels

Celebrating: Connacht coach Pat Lam - a wonderful day for Sligo, Leitrim, Rosommon, Mayo and Galway.

Celebrating: Connacht coach Pat Lam - a wonderful day for Sligo, Leitrim, Rosommon, Mayo and Galway.

Connacht coach Pat Lam is already plotting new goals for his group of champions.

Having exceeded this season's target with the Guinness Pro 12 title, Lam now believes Connacht must continue moving forward, starting on June 30 when the squad reconvenes after their summer break.

Barely had Connacht lifted the trophy, Lam declared his new goals for the season.

" I have already set the goals for next year. We have to defend this - go back to back in the Pro 12 - it is realistic for us to win it again," he said. " The second is to get into the knock-out stages of the Champions Cup.

"I am putting that out here now because come June 30, we start the work again. If we continue building, we can set goals, but we must work every day to achieve them."

Lam and Connacht have embraced each other, and the Kiwi, gracious in victory, said he was thrilled for the province and some of its key personnel.

"I am just so pleased for John Muldoon and Eric Elwood. I can't speaker higher of Eric, we are very similar, very passionate people. The west has really embraced us, me and my family, and it's a wonderful day for everyone in Sligo, Leitrim, Rosommon, Mayo and Galway."

Lam has quickly developed a keen sense of identity with Galway and Connacht, which has been crucial in building his "Connacht family".

"I did a lot to homework before I got here. I needed to know who I represented. I read and watched The West's Awake documentary, and visited all five provinces, and then you start to feel an affinity, see similarities between Ireland and Western Samoa - it's about family and community and that is why is it easy to connect here."

Like the entire Connacht squad Lam was moved by the huge and vocal support when Connacht entered Murrayfield stadium.

"Definitely it was more than I expected, but I knew things would be different going into a final. Emotion can help if it is chanelled into a game, so when I got off the bus and I could see watery eyers, I pulled everyone aside in the changing room and said 'Let's use it and chanNel it into the game'. People of Connacht know that is how we are playing, but what you saw was the emotion and feeling which came through in the execution."

Lam never doubted Connacht's ability to win the trophy.

"I always look at it with the end in mind. What does the big picture look like and work my way back. As I said many times, I want us to be a team that can go through a team, round a team or over a team, and and you are going to need systems and structures to do that so on the field the key guys can recognise what is going on."

"I spent the last five years of my playing career as a captain, and when you are out there, all you want is bullets to fi re, and there is nothing worse to see that if you want to go through, you cannot do it, so all the little drills and stuff we do is all around being able can do the bigger picture.

"It meant we had to do a lot of work on our skills, so the selection of the coaching team was crucial, and we have a good management team.

"I don't coach to be scrutinised by media or people outside, I coach because I want rugby players who come through my programme to be better rugby players and betTer people. To see the development of where these guys are as rugby players, but more important as people, is superb.

Lam, who has two more years on his contract, but is already being touted as a successor to Joe Schmidt, says all Connacht needed was a trophy.

"We won convincingly, it possibly could have been more, but all we needed was the trophy. The amount of children in Connacht jerseys - these children will be inspired - it is going to drive everything we do.

"But we can't take it for granted. We go back to work, but let's take it up a level again, and that is the challenge. We want to get trophies into club and schools and connect with communities because that is what got us there in the end."

KEY FACT:

Pat Lam insisted on flying the Connacht squad out and into Knock, rather than opt for Shannon or Dublin. “Knock is in Connacht, and there was nowhere else we wanted to arrive back into thatn Knock, in our own province.”

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