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Dublin: 8 °C Tuesday 23 October, 2018
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Lam able to increase focus on detail for third year in charge of Connacht

The Samoan and his team are regrouping for another shot at the same targets.

CONNACHT HEAD COACH sounds bullish ahead of the western province’s opening pre-season fixture against Grenoble in Galway on Friday (kick-off 17.15).

Pat Lam Source: James Crombie/INPHO

The Samoan guided Connacht to their best league finish last season and only kept hope of Champions Cup qualification alive until extra time of a Titanic play-off away to Gloucester.

Ahead of his third campaign at the helm in the Sportsground, Lam is committed to the same targets.

“Our goal hasn’t changed. We want to qualify for the Champions Cup next year”, the head coach told ConnachtRugby.ie today.

“Getting so close has instilled real belief that we can achieve it this season and we are determined to do so.

“We must finish in the top six of the Pro12 or win the Challenge Cup. Both would be huge and we’ll be targeting the two competitions from the start. It’s not lost on us that winning the Challenge Cup and a trophy would be massive for Connacht Rugby and our supporters and it’s great that the bonus this year would be Champions Cup qualification.

Lam presides over a squad who continue to grow in confidence, aided by the presence of nine Connacht men in the Emerging Ireland squad that won the Tbilisi Cup. That group’s late arrival to pre-season training is balanced with a feeling of rejuvenation. Both for players involved last season who got to recharge their batteries over the summer, and also for the new faces embarking on a new challenge west of the Shannon.

Nepia Fox-Matamua Nepia Fox-Matamua:in training in Galway Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Ben Marshall has followed Quinn Roux and John Cooney from Leinster. And Lam’s Kiwi connections have brought Api Pewhairangi from rugby league and openside Nepia Fox-Matamua from Auckland.

Api Pewhairangi Api Pewhairangi will face a period of transition between league and union. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Throw in former Ireland under 20 skipper Sean O’Brien to the mix after an injury-ridden season and even Robbie Henshaw’s international duty could barely dampen down the enthusiasm around the Westerners’ squad.

“The players came back in really good condition after the few weeks break and are extremely focused. It’s my third year as coach and my third year with a lot of these players so that allowed us to not only pick up where we left off quite seamlessly but also focus on even more detail in terms of our game.”

Connacht’s five fixtures before October

Friendly: 7 August (17.15) v Grenoble (h)

Friendly: 14 August (TBC) v Castres (a)

Friendly: 21 August (19.45) v Munster (a)

Pro12: 4 September (19.30)  v Dragons (h)

Pro12: 11 September (19.35) v Glasgow (a)

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Sean Farrell

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