Battered and bruised Connacht braced for backlash

Already battered and bruised from Sunday’s exertions in Toulouse, Connacht will be without Michael Swift for the return leg on Saturday in the Galway Sportsground.

Battered and bruised Connacht braced for backlash

The Connacht co-captain will be out for up to four weeks after fracturing a cheek bone — hardly what they’d have wanted days before a wounded Toulouse arrive in the west seeking revenge for their shock defeat last Sunday.

Training will be curtailed this week to help the rest of the players who are nursing “bumps and bruises” before Saturday’s round four Heineken Cup fixture.

“It’s a six-day turnaround and then we had to travel back, so today is the first day we got back together. Guys are still pretty sore, understandably after what was probably one of the most physical games for the boys. It’s all about getting the energy back and the priority is to get it back by Saturday night.”

Lam believes it will not be difficult to keep his players focussed on the job.

“The boys are driving a lot of this. The belief from last week, that has been based on the work the boys have done off the field right through the season and the culture and what we have been trying to achieve. It was a big boost to get the win, but we know it is a step up this week.”

Although Sunday’s shock victory in Stade Ernest Wallon puts Connacht right in the mix for a quarter-final place, particularly if they back it up with a victory in the Sportsground, but Lam insists it is still one game at a time.

“We are not talking quarter -finals,” he said. “We are into the fourth game of this competition and everything is geared towards getting this performance right on the weekend.”

Crucial to Connacht’s victory last Sunday was a solid set-piece — the work of assistant Dan McFarland — and a hugely committed defensive system.

“The defensive effort of that last play, the two minutes before the final whistle was probably the best defensive effort I have ever been involved in, playing or coaching, because not only was the heart there, but the boys stayed in system and stayed disciplined. You can have a lot of heart and fly a lot of guys in there and do their own thing, but they stayed together and that epitomised the whole performance and epitomised what we are trying to achieve.”

Now, however, the biggest challenge facing Lam’s side is to back it up again this week.

“They are going to be a pretty angry team of seasoned internationals. We lose Michael Swift who is a big legend for us and they can replace international with international. We have to take it to another level in our preparations to make sure we can deal with it. We know it is a tougher challenge coming.”

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