Connacht coach Pat Lam says although his side are bottom of the PRO12 standings, their team spirit and unity will count for a lot when they look to bounce back this weekend.
Reigning champions Connacht are in 12th position after heavy defeats to Glasgow and Ospreys in Galway. They have not picked up a point at home but have shipped ten tries and 73 points in just two games in the Sportsground.
However, Lam believes this is the perfect opportunity for his players to bounce back against Zebre on Saturday, as the experienced players in the squad lead the way.
“I asked everyone to stand up that has ever, in the professional game, been at the bottom of the table. Only a handful of guys stood up and it’s the Ronan Loughneys, the John Muldoons, the Andrew Brownes,” said Lam.
“You get a sense of what these guys have been through, why John Muldoon was in tears last year. I said, ‘Now we have a great opportunity, that we’re all on the same boat.’ “We’re working together as a group and that’s what gives us the motivation.”
Lam said his side must stick to the IRFU succession plan and there can be no exceptions with potential loan signings as Connacht continue to be hit by injuries.
Once more they have been frustrated with squad numbers dwindling.
Wing Danie Poolman suffered from concussion last weekend and is going through the return-to-play protocols. Peter Robb is unavailable after he took a knock against Glasgow. And Nathan White and Ben Marshall are also still sidelined due to concussion.
Flanker Nepia Fox-Matamua (hamstring) will be out until November and versatile back Josh Rowland (ankle) may not make his debut for six weeks.
Lam says the province must stick to guidelines and act within their budget at all times.
“All of that has to go through the IRFU and even then it still costs money. All of the recruitment, there’s a process — is the player available, can you afford the player, and will he fit in? It has to fit in with the IRFU’s succession plan too.
“The budget is what it is and recruitment will be ongoing all the time. You can either afford a player or you can’t,” said Lam.
Meanwhile, Connacht have been unable to secure the early arrival of new signing Marnitz Boshoff to bolster their options at half-back.
Boshoff, who once played for the Springboks, won’t be released by his current club the Lions, who have been holding him in reserve as they defend their Currie Cup title.
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