Connacht coach Pat Lam has made just one change to the starting 15 for this evening’s Guinness Pro12 clash with Edinburgh from the side that beat Munster in the Sportsground on New Year’s Day.
Outhalf Miah Nikora has come in for the injured Craig Ronaldson who picked up a concussion scoring a try in the famous win over the two times European champions in their last outing. Nikora will partner Kieran Marmion in the half-back line, with Bundee Aki and Robbie Henshaw making up the centre partnership for the third time this season. The Connacht backline is completed by wingers Daine Poolman and Darragh Leader with Mils Muliaina at full back.
Local talent Ronan Loughney and Jack Carty have been both named on the bench for the game against the Scots.
Connacht cannot afford to take the eye off the ball despite celebrating one of their most significant wins of the season last weekend. The Munster victory has been saluted and analysed, but Connacht now need to continue that successful home form when Edinburgh arrive for this evening's Pro 12 fixture to the Galway Sportsground.
While some commentators have started talking of Connacht as a top four team, the club is not getting carried away. "We have a long way to go," says coach Pat Lam. “We have to stay focused on the goals, and we have a big game against a team that just knocked off one of the top teams [Glasgow].”
Speaking about his selection for the game Lam said: “With the pleasing team performance last week against Munster, we are putting out the same match day squad this week with the exception of Craig [Ronaldson]. But after showing his experience from the bench last week, Miah [Nikora] now comes in to start this important game for us.
“Edinburgh, under astute coach Alan Solomons, are a very powerful and direct team who have shown against top teams like Glasgow and Munster away from home what they are capable of. Like last week, we are expecting tough conditions as well as big, physical contact.
“While there was a lot of excitement around last week’s result, at the end of the day it was four points gained and we need another four points this week. Looking at it, we don’t believe it’s a case of ‘backing up’ the Munster win, but rather a case of being even better again in our performance this week.”
Edinburgh are coming seeking to avenge Connacht’s early season victory in the Scottish capital, and they too are buoyant after a historic triumph in the 1872 Cup against local rivals Glasgow Warriors last weekend. “Certainly [they are] more physical than Munster,” says Lam. “Their game plan is direct, with big runners and a couple of big South African boys. We are glad we had an-eight day turnaround because we need to get energy back to match it again.”
Earlier in the week several players were out of action, including Aly Muldowney, bedridden with a chest infection, and hooker Tom McCartney with a stomach bug. Back training were Andrew Browne, veteran Michael Swift (concussion protocols ) and prop Ronan Loughney (back ) who are available for selection this week.
“We are fully prepared for a tough game. It’s an important game, and we are hoping to get a good crowd again.”
With the Scarlets continuing to breathe down Connacht’s neck for sixth position, now is the time for Connacht to continue to look ahead not back.