Connacht Rugby are back on the road again to face the unbeaten Ospreys who are flying high in this season's Guinness Pro 12. With a six-day turnaround Pat Lam's charges head to Liberty Stadium knowing they will have their work cut out for them in this evening's game (7.35pm ). Steve Tandy's Ospreys have not had their wings clipped at home since January, and they boast the best scoring difference of any team in the Pro 12 which is reflected in their pole position. Although missing nine players currently involved in Warren Gatland's Wales squad, Tandy still has considerable talent at his disposal.
Both sides enter tomorrow's fixture on the back of a disappointing loss in Europe - Ospreys having lost to Northampton in the Champions Cup, and Connacht to Exeter in the Challenge Cup. It has been a difficult schedule for Lam to manage given the size of the squad, exacerbated by having a record five players in the Ireland team set-up this week. And prop Ronan Loughney has been ruled out with an ankle injury and is expected t be sidelined for three weeks.
However Lam also has the addition of new signing Bundi Aki in this selection sights this week, which is a welcome boost, while both Matt Healy and Dave McSharry, who was a late withdrawal last week, also will be available. And, having rested captain John Muldoon, Quinn Roux, and Eoin McKeon last weekend, Lam believes his side will be "buzzing" for tomorrow's big challenge.
Connacht, currently in fifth place, are enjoying their best start to the Pro 12 season, having only been beaten on the road by Glasgow. Having lost all nine previous visits, Liberty Stadium has never been a happy hunting ground for Connacht, and Lam will be keen to change that statistic this season. Away bonus points will become increasingly important as the season progresses.
Interestingly both coaches described their respective defeats in Europe as "blips".
Altough Connacht's performance was disappointing, Lam says the 33-13 loss to Exeter at Sandy Park was not a catrastophe.
"At the end of the day we are still alive in Europe. They have a point over us, but they have to come to Galway," he says. "Ultimately when we do things as a team, we are a good side, and that is the only way we can play, particularly when you come to a place like Exeter where many teams have struggled. We needed to play as a team and we didn't quite execute. Now we have an important game against the Ospreys, so we have parked the Challenge Cup until December."