ABOUT this time last year, Connacht Rugby was experiencing an injury crisis in the out-half position.
A whole load of backs, who are not normally place kickers, began practicing kicks off the tee, just in case they were called upon during games to deputise if anything happened to the match-day recognised kicker.
But that just worsened the injury crisis because some of the non-recognised kickers suffered pulls and tears while they were practicing kicks.
This week the crisis is worse: Jack Carty is the only recognised place-kicker and number 10 available for the sold-out return leg against Wasps on Saturday (5.30pm) at the Sportsground.
Rory Parata, Bundee Aki and Tiernan O’Halloran all put their hands up and said they would take over place-kicking duties if something happens to Carty, but head coach Pat Lam told them not to practice their kicks for fear they too would get injured.
The anecdote sums up just how acute the injury problem is for Connacht heading into one of the biggest games of the Champions Cup.
Lam and his management may look at drafting in a replacement out-half, possibly on loan, to provide cover for Carty, after it was confirmed new recruit Marnitz Boshoff (shoulder) is out for 12 weeks, and Craig Ronaldson isn’t due back until mid-January.
“We won’t be able to do anything this week, we’ll just get on with it,” said Lam, who added later that finances may prevent them from recruiting. “There are budgets. You need money. All players who are injured have still got to get paid.”
That means Carty is the “last out-half standing” and the “only recognised place kicker”. No pressure on the Athlone man’s shoulders, then? “There’s always a lot of pressure on the goal kicker,” said Lam.
While that’s true, there’s possibly even more now given that Carty missed a couple of kicks against Wasps last weekend. But Lam revealed the 24-year-old acknowledged his errors “straight away” and set about fixing them.
“The main thing is (he’s) getting out and doing the work and trying to improve,” said Lam of Carty, who spent additional time this week practicing his place-kicks ahead of the rematch.
For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.