Flu outbreak wreaks havoc at Connacht

HEINEKEN CUP POOL THREE:

Flu outbreak wreaks havoc at Connacht

Twelve players have been laid up and training has been disrupted ahead of the crucial Heineken Cup fixture with the four-time French champions.

It is not good news for Connacht who, already battered after last weekend’s thrilling 16-14 victory in Toulouse, had limited training this week in a bid to ensure they had fully recovered in preparation for the expected onslaught from the wounded French side. And with the talismanic Michael Swift sidelined with a fractured cheek from last Sunday’s titanic clash at Stade Ernest Wallon, coach Pat Lam may be forced to make yet more changes to this weekend’s squad.

Lam has declined to identify the players involved, but it is understood three have been hit more seriously than others. “Training has been disrupted as a result, but these are things we cannot control. Hopefully they will come through, but for now it is all about the mental preparation,” he said.

However one positive for Lam is that the Sportsground is a sellout for this round four clash. The last 300 tickets made available in temporary stands behind the goal lines were snapped up yesterday. The main stand, Connacht Clan stand and enclosed area have been sold out for the last two days to ensure nearly 9,000 should be heading through the gate at 6pm tomorrow. Two years ago, when Connacht hosted Guy Noves’ side for the first time in the competition, the ground was able to hold 9,120 with temporary seating.

Lam says the crowd cannot be underestimated for this game.

“One of the things when I first saw The West’s Awake, when you do your history about Connacht, is that what encapsulated everything was watching the crowd and the noise. When the camera panned away to the crowd and you see their faces and excitement. I don’t think it matters what size — I think it might be 7, 8, 9,000 as many as they can get in there — it is the noise and the atmosphere, you could easily be in the Millennium Stadium or the Aviva Stadium.

“It is just a great atmosphere and I know it gives the boys a lift… we know a performance and what we do on the field can really lift everybody and vice versa, they can lift the players, so squeeze as many in there, it will be fantastic.”

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