Tuesday 25 October 2016

Lam looks to 16th man as Townsend leans on last season's winning experience

Connacht coach Pat Lam
Connacht coach Pat Lam

Pro12 semi-final: Connacht v Glasgow (Today 6.30 TG4/Sky Sports 1)

Coach Pat Lam has called on Connacht supporters to be their 16th man as they bid to reach their first ever PRO12 final at what is certain to be a rocking, raucous Sportsgound this evening.

"It's an exciting time for everyone involved in Connacht Rugby as we head into our first ever PRO12 semi-final," he said.

"The reason we've had such a good record at home this season is the special atmosphere generated by our supporters.

"We're all looking to give them another special day to remember in our last home game of the season."

The province that has torn down barriers previously beyond them will be working manically towards keeping one in place. That is the fact not one away club has ever won a semi-final in the 12 previous played since their introduction in 2010.

For the occasion, Eoin McKeon comes into the back row for the unlucky Sean O'Brien in what is the only change from that 14-7 win over Glasgow in the last round of the regular season.

"We are under no illusions when it comes to the challenge we face against the defending champions Glasgow," said Lam. "They are stacked with players with plenty of experience of test match and knock out rugby.

"We know they will be much stronger than they were two weeks ago, but if we channel our physicality and the excitement into our game, we will be able to meet that challenge head-on."

Glasgow will come locked and loaded as they look to go back-to-back ahead of what would feel like a home final at Murrayfield next week.

They will seek to become the second club after Leinster in 2013 and 2014 to do so.

Coach Gregor Townsend hasn't come this far in four years without taking and learning from harsh lessons.

"The players have worked really hard to secure a fifth consecutive play-off and we're excited about the opportunity this represents," he offered.

Townsend has opted to make changes as Zander Fagerson and Simone Favaro come into the pack and Sean Lamont, Mark Bennett and Henry Pyrgos bolster the backline

"Connacht are a tough opponent and have been playing well, but we're fully focussed on what is required.

"We've learnt a lot from the game a fortnight ago and we're determined to put in a performance of which we can all be proud."

Connacht: T O'Halloran; N Adeolokun, R Henshaw, B Aki, M Healy; AJ McGinty, K Marmion; R Loughney, T McCartney, F Bealham, U Dillane, A Muldowney, E McKeon, J Heenan, J Muldoon (capt).

Glasgow: S Hogg; T Seymour, M Bennett, P Horne, S Lamont; F Russell, H Pyrgos; G Reid, F Brown, Z Fagerson, L Nakarawa, J Gray (capt), R Wilson, S Favaro, J Strauss.

Verdict: Glasgow.

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