Pat Lam Reveals The IRFU Blocked Him Bringing A Player In For Free Despite Injury Crisis

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Connacht boss Pat Lam has revealed that the IRFU blocked his attempt to bring in his son to play for free despite the province’s current injury crisis.

Mitch Lam has been playing for the Connacht Eagles and Galwegians this season but the IRFU, according to the Connacht boss, have blocked his attempt to bring him in to the senior set-up because he is a foreign player.

The western province are currently crippled with injuries across the board but the IRFU have turned a blind eye, despite the fact that Mitch was willing to play for the province at no cost whatsoever.

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Connacht have South African Marnitz Boshoff out until March and Craig Ronaldson and Shane O’Leary not back yet after lengthy spells out and could now be heading to play Ospreys this weekend with replacement scrum-half Caolin Blade playing at out-half.

Lam is sweating on the availability of regular out-half Jack Carty, who was called into his first Irish squad this week, after he suffered a calf injury in national camp on Monday and is added to the growing list of players either out or doubtful for Saturday’s visit to Liberty Stadium to take on an Ospreys side second in the table.

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Star players Ultan Dillane and Bundee Aki are both currently out.

And with over two dozen players injured or being rested, Lam has had insufficient numbers to train properly with backs coach Conor McPhillips, a 35-year old former Connacht winger who retired in 2009, having to step in as an out-half in training moves.

“Last week we had a midfield back-line for the Munster attack, of (props) Dave Heffernan and Shane Delahunt who were running 12 and 13 last week,” said Lam.

“We had more forwards running out in the backs. We just needed to get some sort of thing but obviously they don’t have the same finesse or intricacies of how to play the midfield. But that’s just making do with what you have and trying to adapt.”

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Lam said that bringing in someone new for three or four weeks’ cover wasn’t practical as it would take them that length of time to learn the calls, and that’s why he looked at drafting his own son as he had trained with the squad and was familiar with the set-up.

“It was just turned down by the IRFU because he is a foreigner. Mitch was going to cost nothing, he’s my son, so I wasn’t going to charge Connacht Rugby.

“We only needed somebody for three weeks because O’Leary is not far around the corner. Craig Ronaldson is not far so it is just to cover off the injuries. All the new guys who have come in need three or four weeks to know our calls.

“It’s a language the way we play. That was the whole purpose of asking Mitch to come up here because you have to know the plays so I was just preparing for this situation. But that’s fine. I think all of the provinces they have to go through the processes and ask the question. 

“Straight away the answer was no. So we just train Caolin Blade, train Rory Parata, because at least they know the calls, Tiernan O’Halloran step in there just in case we cover it, and Danie Poolman has had to step in to 12. It is better to have some guys there.

“We could get a possible Irish 10 who is playing club rugby but he would still need the three-week window. We need somebody here and now, because for the last three weeks we have no O’Leary, Ronaldson, Boshoff. Hopefully, O’Leary is not too far away next week so that will help ease the situation. It’s only to cover for the three weeks.

Ireland internationals Finlay Bealham and Matt Healy are also doubts for this weekend with stomach bugs, with Irish international Ultan Dillane also now ruled out for six weeks.

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Jason Hennessy

Jason is the editor at RugbyLAD. Any queries big or small you can reach him at [email protected]

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