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'At different times I have tried to get him back': The player Pat Lam offered to Sale in 2016 that he has unsuccessfully tried to sign since then

By Liam Heagney

Trending on RugbyPass

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Bristol boss Pat Lam has revealed he was the go-between for the 2016 move by AJ MacGinty to Sale from Connacht, a move that could now come back to haunt him as the 2020/21 Gallagher Premiership season enters its finishing straight. Leaders Bristol head to Sale this Friday looking to guarantee themselves a home semi-final fixture next month, but they will have their ambitions tested by the third-place Sharks who have been enjoying themselves under new boss Alex Sanderson.   

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For Lam, Friday’s trip to Manchester has him aware of the dangers posed by the Sale half-backs, especially out-half MacGinty. Although born in Dublin, MacGinty represented the USA at the 2015 World Cup and it subsequently resulted in Lam being told by the IRFU at the end of the 2015/16 season that he had to move the American recruit on. 

It was while watching the finals that Lam reckoned MacGinty would be a useful fit for Connacht. However, while he arrived in on a short-term to play a stellar part in the fairy tale that was the Irish province winning the PRO12 title, the powers-that-be at the IRFU told the coach that he couldn’t offer the Irishman an extension as he wasn’t Irish-eligible.

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Rather than leave MacGinty to fend for himself, Lam ensured his title-winning No10 was looked after and he has since gone on to enjoy a stellar stint at Sale in England. “Sale are always physical, they are pretty direct but they are well run with Faf (de Klerk) one of the best in the world and AJ, who I have a lot of time for,” said Lam at his media briefing ahead of Friday’s match. 

“Funny enough, I had him in Connacht and we had to let him go and I rang a few Premiership clubs about finding AJ a spot. I spoke to about four or five of them and Dimes [Steve Diamond] was the first one to take him up. At different times I have tried to get him back but he has settled nicely and Sale are going a great job. They have got a really good spine and certainly Faf and AJ run the show.   

“On the back of what happens upfront on go-forward ball, they have got two playmakers in Faf and AJ that can run the game and they have got some quality out wide as well. They are on this journey with Alex, who has done a great job… I love it, I always want big challenges because we [Bristol] grow as a team. That was the dream back in the Championship, to be playing these games at this time of the year, to be playing games that matter, to be playing games where you grow experience.

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“I know supporters would like easier games, it would be better on their hearts and so forth but a great competition is when you are playing games like Test matches so this is going to be a huge opportunity for growth for our players and the Bears.   

“One versus three, there is a lot for Sale to play for and we have always found it difficult to play up at the AJ Bell. We understand the challenge we face and Alex has done a great job building on the good work that Dimes has done. Alex has come in and brought his experience and character to the team and is doing really well so we are under no illusions. We want to win the game to secure that goal it’s far from going to be easy which is what we want in the Premiership.” 

Bristol will be without veteran prop John Afoa, who limped out of last week’s win over Gloucester,  but Lam claimed the unspecified injury isn’t season-ending. “The good thing is he will play again this year and it’s not as bad as we thought. He got caught in a pretty tricky position at a maul so he is working away with the medics but expect to see John again shortly. That [what exactly the injury is] is personal business.”

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'At different times I have tried to get him back': The player Pat Lam offered to Sale in 2016 that he has unsuccessfully tried to sign since then

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