Friday 24 March 2017

Big occasion warrants big result

Ireland international Robbie Henshaw gives some advice to youngsters at the Mazda Rugby Roadshow with Connacht Rugby in Buccaneers RFC, Athlone last weekend. Connacht players Kieran Marmion, Denis Buckley, Robbie Henshaw and Tom McCartney also put the children through their paces
Ireland international Robbie Henshaw gives some advice to youngsters at the Mazda Rugby Roadshow with Connacht Rugby in Buccaneers RFC, Athlone last weekend. Connacht players Kieran Marmion, Denis Buckley, Robbie Henshaw and Tom McCartney also put the children through their paces

Declan Rooney

Connacht will become the first team to play a Russian club side in a European rugby competition tomorrow morning when they take on Enisei-STM at the Central Stadium in Krasnoyarsk (8am, Irish time).

Almost 6,000km from home - and just 500km from the Mongolian border - Connacht will hope to return with a minimum of four points, for victory, from their Siberian expedition.

A win would be Connacht's 20th away from home in the Challenge Cup and all going to plan, a bonus point should be the target from a daunting trip for Pat Lam's side.

Scoring tries has never been a problem for Connacht in the secondary European competition. They have accumulated 279 tries from their 105 games to date, with the 13 scored in their record 83-7 win over Cavalieri Estra in 2010-11 their highest try tally.

But you would think that Connacht would settle for five tries and a straightforward, injury-free win from this outing.

Information and video footage has been scarce and Connacht have had to rely on their own footage from when the Russians visited the Sportsground in 2014.

In total, nine of the squad who have travelled to this game played in that win for the Eagles, including Caolin Blade and Danny Qualter, who scored tries.

And Lam has called on his side to execute their jobs efficiently, which should negate the lack of information available on their opponents.

"This is probably an appropriate game where we need to really focus on our jobs and focus on what we do," said Lam.

"We know that it's an historical occasion. We understand there is going to be a massive crowd so there is no doubt they will be up for it.

"But I think the big thing for us is to understand who we are, what we are about, and we obviously play week in, week out at a level higher than they do.

"So the only thing we can control is our performance and it has been the focus for this whole build-up."

Connacht will not be the first Irish team to play in Krasnoyarsk though, as the Irish senior team played Russia at the same venue in 2002.

On that occasion Eddie O'Sullivan's side registered a 35-3 win in a tricky World Cup qualifier.

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