‘These are the moments I really enjoy, I know it’s funny’ – Pat Lam

THE SMILE WAS back on Pat Lam’s face in Galway yesterday, as the rare September sun shone down on the Sportsground.

Bottom of the Guinness Pro12, two defeats in two home games, 10 tries conceded and the title defence off to a disastrous start, but Lam has regathered himself.

Lam was in positive form yesterday in Galway. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

He stresses that it is his job to resist negative emotions filtering through to his players, as Connacht look for their first win of the campaign away to Zebre on Saturday.

Lam did show some signs of frustration after Saturday’s defeat to the Ospreys but yesterday was an affirmation of the head coach’s intent to tackle this challenge with glee.

“Without a doubt, these are the moments I really enjoy, I know it’s funny,” says Lam. “These are the moments, as a leader, you need to lead well. My reaction to performances, or losses, is really key.

“It starts with the management and works its way down to the players. There are a lot of circumstances and cards that we’ve been dealt that can sit outside there, but all this does is bring the culture, and the way we do things here, to light.

“It’s great that we’ve been able to do it when things are going really well, and now this is where it really counts. This is why you build your culture, why you build your system and your structures.

“My whole philosophy is about better people and better rugby people – these are the times you get that.

“That’s why I have joy – don’t get me wrong, I’m not happy with where we’re at, I’m disappointed where we’re at – but I have joy that I know how to get out of this situation and I know the learnings that will come from this situation, so it’s certainly where everything gets tested.”

Lam is confident Connacht will bounce back. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

As Connacht filtered onto the back pitch at the Sportsground later that afternoon for their second training session of the day, spirits seemed to be in good condition.

The usual laughing and joking, Bundee Aki slotting shots at goal from the five-metre line, injured players helping out with the warm-up – this didn’t appear to be a squad who feel they are in the midst of a crisis.

Indeed, Lam is steadfast in his conviction that Connacht are more united than ever.

“One of the things that I did was I asked everyone to stand up that has ever, in the professional game, been at the bottom of the table. I’m not talking 10th or 11th, I’m talking the bottom.

“So only a handful of guys stood up and it’s the ones you know – the Loughneys, the Muldoons, the Brownes. You get a sense of what these guys have been through before, why John Muldoon was in tears last year.

“I said, ‘Now we have a great opportunity here; we’re all on the same boat together collectively.’”

Lam says a trip to Italy this weekend is welcome for Connacht, joking that he can top up his tan, though he was more serious about the issues of Connacht shoring up their defence and being far more clinical in attack.

It was well flagged that opposition teams were going to have a better understanding of Connacht’s attack this season, targeting previous strengths, but Lam stresses that his side actually need to reach the standards of last season before worrying about developing new branches.

“Before we even build – and we are trying to build on areas – it’s making sure that we are doing the things that we are actually good at.

Bundee Aki at training in the Sportsground. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

“We look at our carries, and we have a certain way that we need to carry and present the ball. When we do that, I don’t care which team – they can’t stop it. But when we don’t do it, it has a knock-on affect and part of it is making sure that the guys who were here last year are consistent to do what works for us.

“We are building our game but it has to build on top of what we already have.

“We looked at Glasgow in that first half and we opened them up quite a few times doing things that we did last year. There’s a plan on how we do it, but it comes down to the individual.

“As we go through our shape, the individuals need to be able to execute really well. When we cut Glasgow apart in that first half and Bundee made a break, Niysi [Niyi Adeolokun] made a break, the guys inside had done their job well.”

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