Lam ready for tough Zebre test

Pat Lam has a hard act to follow when his Connacht team take to the field in today’s Rabodirect Pro 12 opener against Italian visitors Zebre (5pm).

The era of Eric Elwood, the province’s favourite son, is over, and newcomer Lam acknowledges the Italians are champing at the bit to claim their first league victory.

Lam has not been helped by the absence of his biggest signing Craig Clarke. The double-winning Super 15 captain Clarke has failed to recover fully from a calf injury, described earlier this week as a “niggle” , but Lam has named a familiar line-up which will be captained by veteran Michael Swift — one of three club captains this season.

Form suggests a Connacht victory, but Zebre have made some astute signings.

CONNACHT: R Henshaw, F Carr, D Poolman, E Griffin, M Healy, D Parks, K Marmion, B Wilkinson J Harris-Wright, N White, M Swift, A Browne, J Muldoon, W Faloon, G Naoupu. Replacements: S Henry, R Ah You, A Muldowney, J Heenan, F Murphy, C Ronaldson, T O’Halloran.

ZEBRE: D Berryman, G Venditti, K Ratuvou, G Garcia, G Toniolatti, L Orquera, B Leonard, M Aguero, D Giozzon, D Chistolini, Q Geldenhuys, M Bortolami (cpt), M Bergamasco, A Van Schalkwyk, S Vunisa. Replacements: A Manici, L Redolfini, S Perugini, G Biagi, F Ferrarini, A Chillon, T Iannone, M Pratichetti.

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