Siberia an appropriate spot for Connacht nomad's Euro bow
It has been a long and winding road for Rory Parata. He was born in Australia, his father is a rugby-mad Kiwi, he grew up in Cork when the family moved to where his mum is from, he went to school in Tipperary, got his career breakthrough in Galway and tomorrow he will make his European debut deep in Siberia.
But the 21-year-old winger is taking it in his stride and hopes to play his part in Connacht continuing their superb start to the season by opening their European Challenge Cup campaign with a victory over Enisei-STM in Krasnoyarsk.
He is in his third year in the Connacht academy, he made his debut for the senior team in the pre-season friendly away to Castres and has made four appearances in the Pro12 as Pat Lam's men lead the table with six wins from seven games.
"I was happy enough with how they went," said Parata about his Pro12 appearances. "It was a bit surreal at first getting out there. But it's good experience to get out and get them under the belt as well. I was happy enough with how they went anyway."
Having regular games for the Connacht Eagles has meant that his European debut is not a complete step into the unknown as he played against Enisei-STM on one of their four visits to Galway.
"I played against them two years ago with the Eagles. They are very physical, they are very big. They have got better. I remember watching the videos of them, and they are always physical but as the years have gone on they have got better and better at their structure. They are a good team."
He and his team-mates have been adjusting to the cold conditions, with temperatures of minus-11 Celcius forecast for kick-off tomorrow afternoon (8am Irish time).
"It is cold, but there is none of that cold wind or rain. It should hopefully be good for running rugby as well. I'm just looking forward to getting out there.
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"You wouldn't get this opportunity, some people would never get it. It's nice to get over here anyway and have a look around the place.
"We have prepared well and on Monday and Tuesday we trained very early in the morning just to get our bodies used to the time difference and we are all just looking forward to the game now," added Parata.
Coach Pat Lam, who will announce his team at noon today, said that they have parked the Pro12 for a few weeks and were now just keen to make an equally good start to the Challenge Cup after their best opening to the league.
"We said from the beginning that we want to do well in this competition as well. It is another avenue into the Champions Cup. We know that and for us it is always game by game, and it is another opportunity for the boys to put the shirt on.
"There are a few boys who will be involved for the first time this year and they have just been busting to get a chance. They are bringing in excitement and energy there too.
"The whole club is excited by how we have gone. Obviously that makes it easier day to day training. There are some guys that just want the opportunity and now's their chance," added Lam.
It will be Connacht's 106th game in the competition and tomorrow they will be looking for their 55th win.
Russia is the seventh country they have visited for this competition - England, Wales, France, Italy, Spain and Romania being the others - and they will be facing their 43rd club in the Challenge Cup.