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Dublin: 2 °C Saturday 24 March, 2018

Is Bundee Aki missing Robbie Henshaw? As a friend but not a partner, says Lam

The talismanic centre has been struggling with a calf injury recently.

Aki disappointed after Saturday's loss to Leinster.
Aki disappointed after Saturday's loss to Leinster.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

CONNACHT HEAD COACH Pat Lam is confident Bundee Aki will return to his explosive best over the coming weeks after his recent performances were hampered by a troublesome calf injury.

The talismanic centre, who recently signed a new contract with the province, has been struggling with a knock he sustained in the interpro victory over Ulster at the start of last month.

Aki started the thrilling Champions Cup win over Toulouse but was named on the bench against Zebre and Leinster in a bid to shake off the problem.

The early withdrawal of Craig Ronaldson on Saturday, however, forced the Kiwi into action and afterwards Lam admitted that his preparations have been hampered.

“He’s spent the last few weeks missing Monday and Tuesday trainings and has pretty much come in at the end [of the week],” Lam explained at the RDS.

Bundee Aki Aki came on as a first-half substitute on Saturday. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“It isn’t ideal because Bundee likes the full contact for the week. Last week was a chance to put him on the bench and the same as this week but the good thing now is he’ll be ready to go for next week [Dragons] and then the break we have he’ll be 100%.”

Is there a chance Aki is missing Robbie Henshaw?

“I think they’re good mates, he’s missing him as a friend certainly not as a partner,” Lam said. “He’s enjoying playing with and leading with the other young fellas like Craig and Peter Robb. He’s doing a good job there and he’s actually a good leader of the other fellas.”

In an ideal world, Lam would most likely prefer to give the 26-year-old the week off to recharge the batteries and fully shake off the problem but with Craig Ronaldson a doubt for the trip to Wales, he may not have a choice.

Ronaldson sustained a concussion in the defeat to Leinster and was withdrawn after 19 minutes following a failed HIA. It coincided with the turning of the tide as Connacht then squandered a six-point lead.

Pat Lam Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Lam refuted the claims that Aki, and Connacht, are being stifled and are unable to replicate their form of last season because opposition teams have worked them out.

“There’s opportunities elsewhere and Saturday we got caught up by our own mistakes,” the head coach insisted.

“We faced that type of d before, Toulouse came flying up at us as well but it just comes down to our own execution. Our game is based on being able to look after the ball.”

Ronan Loughney (hamstring) will definetely miss the game at Rodney Parade while Sean O’Brien (hamstring) and Rory Molony (concussion) join Ronaldson in the doubtful category.

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