Connacht v Scarlets, Guinness PRO12: Kieran Marmion admits complacency cost Connacht dearly as they failed to defend their Guinness PRO12 title this season.


Complacency hurt Connacht badly, admits Kieran Marmion

Connacht v Scarlets, Guinness PRO12: Kieran Marmion admits complacency cost Connacht dearly as they failed to defend their Guinness PRO12 title this season.

Complacency hurt Connacht badly, admits Kieran Marmion

Pat Lam’s men made rugby history last season, when the swashbuckling western province won the first piece of senior silverware, beating Leinster in last May’s Grand Final in Murrayfield.

But they have endured a frustrating season as reigning champions, compounding the bad news Lam, the architect of Connacht’s success, is departing this summer.

The signs were there early this season Connacht would not be as competitive as before, and Marmion admits it was tough to take.

“We got off to a bad start, in games we fully expected to win; Dragons, Zebre, that’s something we’d never done in the past,” he said.

“We were probably being a bit complacent. I think everyone wants more, once they win, but lads were maybe going away to those teams expecting to win, where before we knew we had to play well to get those wins.

“It was disappointing that happened, and then being involved in and having a big emphasis on the Champions Cup, that affected our league form a little bit.

“We did fairly well in that, and probably sat back a little in the league knowing it was Zebre up next, not Wasps.”

Connacht learned it’s one thing to win a title, another to defend it.

“It’s tough to get to the top and win those games, but it’s tougher staying up there, every team targets you,” Marmion said.

“You need a big squad, good replacements coming in all the time. What Leinster and Munster did over the years is seriously tough to do, and somewhere we still feel we want to get to.

“We’ve done it as a once off, but we want to get up there and do it more often.”

Connacht have only a Champions Cup play-off to aim for this season, a far cry from this time last year when excitement had gripped Galway, ahead of the PRO12 playoff.

Glasgow were beaten not once but twice, and then Leinster lay in wait in the Grand Final. Handing back the trophy to tournament organisers in Aviva Stadium yesterday, Marmion recalls the thrill, and the confidence that was coursing through the Connacht squad.

“Going into the final, we expected to win that game,” Marmion said.

“We said we’d go out with no fear, just play how we played and it was probably the best we’d played all year. It was definitely the most enjoyable game. We were so comfortable out there, everything was sticking for us. We built up a lead, and we just knew we weren’t going to throw it away.”

Marmion has started twice for Ireland since last season’s final, against Canada in November and, more impressively, against England last month. Stepping in for the injured Conor Murray, the 25-year-old delivered a solid show against Eddie Jones’ Grand Slam-chasing men, earning rave reviews.

But while he’s done enough to earn a place on the summer tour to America and Japan, Marmion fears he may need to do more in future to remain competitive with Murray and Leinster’s Luke McGrath.

If Connacht don’t qualify for next season’s Champions Cup, it could harm his chances – and force him to consider following Robbie Henshaw’s route out of Galway.

“I’ll have to make that call at some stage,” said Marmion, whose provincial contract expires in 2018.

“A new coach is coming in next year, we’ll see where that leads us; I’m sure it will be a good place, but obviously Robbie did what he feels is best for him and that’s what you need to do in rugby.

“There’s not many spaces out there for scrum-halves, but at the same time I want to be playing in the Champions Cup, I want to be playing at the highest possible standard to make sure I can compete with these guys.

“If they’re playing Champions Cup every week and we’re playing Challenge Cup, it’s a different level. Our main aim now is to qualify for that next month.”

  • Kieran Marmion was at the Aviva Stadium at the launch of Mazda’s new partnership with the Guinness PRO12 Rugby Final series and officially hand over the trophy back to the tournament organisers on behalf of holders, Connacht Rugby.

Aki charged with misconduct

Connacht’s Bundee Aki has been charged with misconduct by the disciplinary officer of PRO12 Rugby as a result of his behaviour toward referee Ian Davies in the April 15 defeat by Leinster. He will appear by videolink in front of a disciplinary hearing held in Cardiff today.

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