Connacht head coach Pat Lam is leaving nothing to chance during pre-season as they look to defend their PRO12 title in the coming season.
The Irish province, who were outsiders to lift the trophy 12 months ago but shocked everyone in May, are now looking to reclaim the title.
And Lam said that doing just that starts in the off-season as his coaches and senior players attempt to give themselves every chance.
“The second season is always tough, that’s why we’ve been going pretty hard in the first weeks to look at everything and make sure there’s nothing we’ve left out,” he told PRO12 Rugby‘s official website, with Connacht starting their campaign at home to Glasgow on September 3.
“The management and senior players were driving that too, and it’s always tough to back up that Championship, so I have to make sure people prepare as well as I can because I can’t control what they do on the pitch.
“The secret to our success is teamwork, it’s not down to the individual.
“It’s about continuing the way we do things, our culture is about the training week and our preparation. If we do that then we can get better, and we can cope with what other teams can bring, but if we slip in standards then other teams will overtake us. I keep going on about it, but what we do at the Sportsground is massively important.”
With stars such as AJ McGinty and Robbie Henshaw leaving the Sportsground after their title win, Lam has signed up Marnitz Boshoff and Eoin Griffin amongst others. And with Connacht again behind the rest in terms of financial clout, Lam is proud of how his team copes.
“The reason this was such a highlight for me was because if you put the 12 Guinness PRO12 teams and rank them in order of resources and budget, we would have been and still are 12th, so it’s a real highlight and it’s what rugby is about,” he added.
“The whole academy system is all about the developing the individual and I believe there is a lot of talent in Irish rugby, but it’s about what you do to integrate them in the team system.
“The academy is great for building the player, but rugby is not an individual game and they need to know how to maul and defend properly, not just tackling but to be at certain places, with speed under pressure.
“In academies you do a lot of skill stuff, which is all good, but if you’re not putting your part in the team then not all of them put them through.
“I’m working with a lot of guys I’ve worked with before, so there’s a lot of understanding about each other and about what I’m looking to do. If you’re able to retain players, then the development of them you put into them means you want to keep them and the continuity helps that.”