Belfast Telegraph

Pat Lam is hoping to avoid repeat of Cardiff misery

By David Kelly

Pat Lam brings the season's unlikely lads to Cardiff and something has to give between two teams at opposite ends of the spectrum tonight - with the visitors riding the crest of a wave and the other suffering misery.

The last time the sides met in the Welsh capital, Lam's patience gave; a hugely contentious defeat and all manner of conspiracy theories regarding a 68-phase endgame and, bizarrely, the refereeing fraternity's car parking privileges caused the westerners' season to spectacularly implode.

This time 12 months ago, Connacht were on course for what seemed like a decent tilt at securing at the very least a Champions Cup slot on merit, but the controversial 18-17 defeat cost Lam's side their momentum.

Connacht slipped into the pack of also-rans and never recovered their energy; supporters will hope that this fixture doesn't deliver similar portents this time around.

It would seem unlikely based on current form, even as poor AJ MacGinty this week joined an injury list that now extends to an astonishing 15 players.

USA World Cup breakthrough out-half MacGinty suffered a meniscal tear to his knee during the historic win against Munster in Thomond Park last Saturday and is facing a month-long recovery period.

As he joins Robbie Henshaw amongst so many others in the casualty ward, it affords yet more opportunity to extend valued experience to the elongated conveyor belt of talent; Ireland U20 centre Peter Robb will make his debut at some stage this evening.

Lam said: "With the short turnaround and following a very physical game against Munster, we obviously see some changes in the side this week.

"While we lost four more guys to injury in the last game, we also have players coming back into contention. And with competition as high as ever, it makes our job for selection that bit more difficult but that's what we want."

As Connacht continue to head the table, they remain the tournament's top try scorers (25), a tangible tribute to their expressive style. Their only defeat in any competition this season was by a single point against Glasgow.

Their record of six successive wins in this competition is a new Connacht record. In stark contrast, Cardiff's downward spiral continues unabated and unaffected by either coaching changes or a return to the Arms Park.

They have slipped to seven straight defeats in the League, although they have at least picked up four losing and one try bonus point along the way.

Lam added: "Before I came here, we were 14 games without a win. What happens when that happens, is that they are due a win. If we allow them to have that opportunity, they will take it.

"That is one of the things that we have talked about this week. If we sit around going, 'look we are top of the table' and we listen to what everyone is saying, and we go there not fully focused, we will open the door for Cardiff."

Pro12 League: Cardiff Arms Park, Cardiff Blues v Connacht, 7.05

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