Lam gets the ball rolling ahead of new season

Connacht coach Pat Lam has provided each of his players with a rugby ball in an attempt to improve the overall skill levels within the squad.

Lam gets the ball rolling ahead of new season

“Everyone has their own ball, because at the end of the day, it’s all about the ball,” Lam said yesterday.

“The guys are working to get better and that’s all I can ask. The main thing for us — obviously we do not have the internationals or resources of our competition, is our team work — so across the board we are about improving all our skills, having real clarity of how we play, what each person’s job is, and then putting a big focus on our culture.”

The new coach has increased the squad size to 60 by including all academy players in the regular training sessions and says all will play a part in the province’s three pre-season fixtures.

Two players, however, who won’t feature in the early stages of the new season are centres Dave McSharry and Kyle Tonetti as they continue their rehabilitation after surgery.

Lam revealed the pair are unlikely to see action until November following their respective operations. McSharry missed an expected call-up for Ireland’s summer tour after undergoing a groin operation, while Tonetti continues to recover after an ankle operation in April. They are currently the only two players on the injury list as Connacht enter their second week of pre-season training under Eric Elwood’s successor.

“Both are coming off big surgeries,” revealed Lam. “They are both working on their skills, but at this stage they are not expected back until October or November.”

Also missing from his newly expanded squad are the trio of signings from the southern hemisphere. Flanker Jake Heenan, the former New Zealand U20 captain, is due to arrive later in the week, full back James So’oialo, cleared this week after being cited for grabbing the testicles of Springbok hooker Adrian Strauss when playing for Samoa, is due next month, while lock Craig Clarke will see out the Super season with the Chiefs in the New Zealand Conference.

Those on duty with the Emerging Ireland squad — Eoin Griffin, Eoin McKeon and Tiernan O’Halloran — rejoin the province on July 15 following the return of Robbie Henshaw and Kieron Marmion from the US tour.

Lam has already held one-to-ones with his squad members, who, he says, have returned to summer training in “good nick”.

“Everyone has met their targets and looked after themselves in the break, but the most pleasing aspect has been their attitude.

“I have done one-on-ones and (been) getting ideas of what players want to achieve and where they want to go as individuals, and then collectively as group, so it is a good start.”

In addition to playing French champions Castres as part of week-long trip to France, they’ll take on Wasps at the Galway Sportsground, while also taking on Lam’s English club, Newcastle Falcons.

“I definitely wanted three pre-season matches, and then to have a physical hit-out before get into the season. As a new coach and working with new players, I will give everyone an opportunity.”

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