WHILE A TRIP down to Toulon or Clermont of a December weekend may be dreaded more, there was bound to be an element of frustration for Connacht’s management team after drawing Russian champions Enesei in the pool stage of the Challenge Cup.
Overall, Pat Lam’s side fared well with their pool, avoiding the likes of Harlequins and Gloucester in Tier 2, but it will be the away trip to Sochi that will stand out like a sore thumb when the fixtures are released.
Lam described it as “an exciting trip to Russia”, but the almost 7,500km round-trip will only be that if Robbie Henshaw packs a few decks of cards into his hand luggage.
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While Enesei are based in the city of Krasnoyarsk, 6,000km from Galway Bay, Sochi will be used as the location for their home games, which still means a long trip for both “home” and away side.
Despite playing their home games in Sochi, Enesei will actually have even further to travel than the Irish sideside to get to their “home” ground in the competition.
Based in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk, Enesei will be going a full 3,950km trip to get to Sochi.
In case that doesn’t look big enough written down in front of you, here’s a snapshot of just how far each side has to travel.
While Connacht have had an impressive following in Europe over the past few seasons, their fans will need a combination of deep flights and some spare days annual leave if they’re to make it to the other side of the continent for the away trip.
Should Connacht face Enesei on the opening weekend of the competition, we decided to run the numbers on the logistics of your travel.
Skyscanner say your cheapest possible route to Sochi and home again will set you back €416, and although that sounds reasonable for a flight to Russia, you’ll need to have time on your side.
You’ll have to do it all again when you get your return flight on Saturday morning though, but on the plus side, you only have to travel for 19-and-a-half hours on your return to Dublin.
However, presuming you’re a a Connacht fan, you’re probably from the west, so don’t forget that two hour drive back down the M4 until you’re home.
There is a big positive though, Sochi’s climate isn’t as Russian as you’re picturing in your head.
If anything, conditions almost seem nicer than the notorious winter evenings we get in the Sportsground, with the average daily temperature in Sochi in the months of November, December and January being around 11, 8 and 6 degrees respectively.
So if you really want spend four days of your life travelling to Russia, all in the name of Connacht Rugby, let us know. We can only applaud you.
But for those who aren’t, remember a weekend jolly in Newcastle should only be a couple of hundred quid, pints included.
Connacht heading to Russia in the Challenge Cup after pool stage draw4 men who stood out in a patchy Emerging Ireland display