While Robbie Henshaw remains sidelined, Lam has made one enforced change in the pack, lock Mick Kearney replacing the injured Andrew Browne for this Challenge Cup Pool 2 visit of Bayonne.
In this first of the pre-Christmas back-to-back fixtures, maintaining this season’s unbeaten home record is a must in this final Sportsground fixture of 2014 before Connacht host Munster on New Year’s Day.
“Protecting our home ground is one of our main priorities and that drive continues this week,” Lam explained. “We have chosen a strong side to face Bayonne in what is our last home game of the year.
The sides met in 2010/11 season with Connacht prevailing both home and away, but Bayonne, 10th in the French championship, sprung a surprise in round one, overcoming fancied Exeter, whose comfortable 36-10 win in La Rochelle sees them leading the group with 11 points.
Connacht, with five points, are just one ahead of Bayonne and, as a result, this evening’s match is crucial for both in their hopes to qualify.
“We are expecting a bruising battle against a physically massive team,” says Lam. ” They are a typical French side and we expect them to be very direct, so we will need to put them under pressure from the outset.”
Bayonne arrive with notable wins over Toulouse and Clermont, and 14 of that squad are in action this evening, including the dangerous winger Pierre Sayerse who has caught the eye domestically and in Europe.