Ronan O’Gara can see a lot of similarities between his Munster side of a decade and a half ago and where Connacht are now going under Pat Lam.
The Racing 92 assistant coach, who helped guide the Parisians into their first Champions Cup semi-final on Sunday by knocking out three-in-a-row winners Toulon, believes Connacht will tighten up in the areas which will take them to success.
But he is a huge admirer of the style of rugby which Lam has Connacht playing and he believes the momentum, on and off the park, which they displayed in Saturday’s gripping 33-32 loss in Grenoble, will eventually deliver.
“My mum and dad are over (in Paris) and I just said to them, ‘It’s like Munster 15 years ago.’ Them all suppin’ pints in the crowd, every one going bananas. It’s such a great occasion to be part of and Grenoble with a serious team, Birch (Bernard Jackman) and Prendy (Mike Prendergast) going well there. I thought it was just fascinating to watch, it was everything good about Irish rugby, for a small nation.
“Connacht are exceptionally clinical and accurate and they just so believe in their game plan and what they’re being coached. It’s fascinating to watch, but at 19-3 when things are going so well, sometimes you just have to take the pace out of the game.
“That’s not me saying something off my high horse, it’s just a humble opinion on it. At 19-3, a penalty 10 minutes later and another makes it a three-score game, which mentally is insurmountable.
“It’s so much easier watching it on a computer. When you’re out there, it’s not that easy,” said O’Gara.
He felt that out-half Shane O’Leary, starting just his third game for Connacht with Jack Carty, AJ MacGinty and Craig Ronaldson all out injured will be all the stronger for the experience even if a few kicks went astray.
“I think he has huge potential. I learned those kind of mistakes in the AIL, he’s learning them in Stade des Alpes. That’ll stand to him and accelerate his development. It’s great he’s getting an opportunity like that.”
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