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Connacht's Pat Lam isn't hitting the panic button despite growing injury nightmare

By Daragh Small

PRO12 champions Connacht face a back-row crisis ahead of this weekend's clash with Ospreys as their injury misery continues.

The province have already been struck down in the second-row department with just Ireland international Ultan Dillane, Danny Qualter and new recruit Lewis Stevenson available.

But after a hamstring injury to openside Nepia Fox-Matamua, Pat Lam will only have the pick of four first-team players for the three back-row positions in the crucial tie at the Sportsground.

The hosts will look to bounce back following last weekend's 41-5 six-try defeat at the hands of 2015 winners Glasgow Warriors. But with just captain John Muldoon, Eoin McKeon, James Connolly and the uncapped Rory Moloney to choose from, Connacht will have to dig deep.

"We still have three available second-rows, but the pressure continues into the back-row now too without Jake Heenan, Nepia Fox-Matamua, Sean O'Brien, and Eoghan Masterson," Lam said.

"Andrew Browne can play there but he is out. That's putting pressure on at training, but we are confident we can field a team there this weekend."

Tiernan O'Halloran is available again, but there are further problems in the front-row where loose-head prop Denis Buckley is doubtful after picking up a concussion against Glasgow. But tight-head Conor Carey could make his first start.

In the backline, scrum-half Caolin Blade (thigh) and full-back Cian Kelleher (hip pointer) will both be monitored. Peter Robb will also be kept under supervision following a concussion and fellow centre Rory Parata (knee) is out for a month.

Ospreys hammered Zebre 59-5 last weekend, but after doing the double over the Welsh last term Lam says there is no need to panic - despite their opening defeat.

"We don't look at it as losing ground. There are five points available for 21 more rounds, that's 105 points," he said. "So there is still plenty available."

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