Pat Lam targets Zebre bonus point

A fifth bonus-point win is the target for Connacht in this evening’s Pro 12 fixture with Zebre in Italy (4.30 Irish time). Sitting level on 45 points with Ulster at the top of the table, Pat Lam knows every point will count in their bid for Champions Cup rugby next season.

Pat Lam targets Zebre bonus point

“We want that outcome, whether it’s four points or five. At the stage of the season, nine teams can make the top six - possibly 10 - and every game is crucial.”

Connacht, having never lost to Zebre in 11 meetings in both Pro 12 and Europe, are expected to add to their win tally, but Lam is not taking the Italians lightly.

“They have improved considerably. They have beaten Treviso back-to-back and they are hard at home. We always go in the game knowing that if we have ticked off the boxes during the week, we won’t fall into the trap of being complacent.”

Lam says Zebre will be “fired up to make amends” for their recent 52-0 loss to Leinster, ensuring Connacht need to be on top of their game, and he welcomes the return of Ireland squad members, scrumhalf Kieran Marmion and prop Finlay Bealham, in two of five changes for this week’s challenge. Niyi Adeolokun takes over on the wing from Danie Poolman who moves to the bench, while in the pack Ben Marshall returns for his first match since an arm injury in November to partner Ali Muldowney. No 8 Eoin McKeon joins Jake Heenan and captain John Muldoon in the back row.

Zebre welcome the return of four internationals for today’s fixture, which will also be marked by the inclusion of former All Black and Connacht fullback Mils Muliaina in the starting XV.

ZEBRE:

M Muliaina, G Toniolatti, G Bisegni M Pratichetti, K Van Zyl, K Haimona, L Burgess, B Postiglioni, O Fabiani, D Chistolini, G Koegelenberg, M Bortolami (cpt), Em Caffini, J Meyer, A Van Schalkwyk.

CONNACHT:

T O’Halloran, N Adeolokun, B Aki, C Ronaldson, M Healy, A MacGinty, K Marmion, D Buckley, F Bealham, B Marshall, A Muldowney, J Muldoon (cpt), J Heenan, E Masterson.

Replacements:

D Heffernan, R Loughney R Ah You, G Naoupu, E Masterson, C Blade, P Robb, D Poolman.

Referee:

G Conway (IRFU).

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