“DECIMATED” – that’s the word Connacht Head Coach, Pat Lam, has used to describe the current state of his squad ahead of his side’s Pro12 clash away to Ospreys on Saturday (1.30pm).
Connacht were, incredibly, already missing 23 members of their squad for the game prior to this week, including the likes of key players Bundee Aki, Craig Ronaldson and Ultan Dillane who are just some of those already absent from an injury ravaged roster.
Lam’s selection headaches have worsened ever further this week with injuries to captain John Muldoon (hamstring), Jack Carty(calf), Nepia Fox-Matamua (ribs), while Finlay Bealham and Matt Healy are suffering from illness, meaning all those listed are either out or major doubts ahead of the clash.
Furthermore, both Kieran Marmion and Tiernan O’Halloran could also be unavailable due to Irish player welfare protocols ahead of the upcoming Six Nations international series. Given that Connacht have two crunch Champions Cup clashes with Zebre and Toulouse later this month, the Ospreys game is the only opportunity Lam could allow both to take a much needed leave of absence.
While it’s not ideal, given that Marmion and O’Halloran won’t have trained all week, Lam may still be forced to select the players at the weekend given he has only seven fit backs training all week.
Scrum-half John Cooney and back row forward Eoin McKeon have both provided a muchwelcome boost to this injury crisis hit squad, but given Lam’s difficulties, particularly at number ten, he could be forced to play the versatile scrum-half Caolin Blade in the pivotal role if Carty fails to recover.
Blade has never played at out-half at this level but he has been training for the position throughout the week due to the limited options available given the injuries to Marnitz Boshoff, Shane O’Leary and the doubtful nature of Carty.
Such is the extent of the squad’s injury woes, Lam had looked into the possibility of a three week return for his son Mitch in an effort to provide some vital cover at number ten, but that move was blocked by the IRFU on the basis of him being classed as a “foreign” player.
Full coverage in this week’s Galway City Tribune.