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Dublin: 3°C Thursday 4 March 2021

'Positive' contract outlook for Friend as Aki nears return

The Australian says he is happy in Connacht and hopes to ink a new deal soon.

File photo of Friend and Aki.
File photo of Friend and Aki.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

CONNACHT HEAD COACH Andy Friend described his most recent contract talks as ‘really positive’ as he enters the last six months of his current deal in Galway.

The Australian joined the western province in 2018 and has been a popular figure in Connacht’s resurgence.

“Having some really positive conversations with the CEO Willie Ruane at the moment,” Friend said during today’s virtual press conference.

“All I can say is it is very positive. We do love it here, my wife and I are very comfortable here so hopefully some positive news will come in the not too distant future.”

There was positive news on the injury front both for the province and the national team as Friend suggested Bundee Aki is close to making his return from a knee issue.

The powerful centre is on track to be fit for Ireland’s Six Nations campaign. He could also be fit for Connacht’s re-fixed Pro14 encounter with the Ospreys at the Sportsground on Sunday if he hits the required training markers this week.

“He’s close,” said Friend.

“He’s doing some running this week. If he is fit we’ll make him available this week There’s still a question mark on that, but he’s not too far away.”

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An Aki return would be very timely for Connacht as the province’s medical team today indicated that Sammy Arnold is set to be sidelined until April after undergoing surgery on a chest muscle.

Peter Robb may also feature in Arnold’s place as he too becomes available.

Prop Paddy McAllister and fullback Tiernan O’Halloran are nearing returns and are expected back in full training in the weeks ahead.

Ben O’Donnell and Sean O’Brien are continuing their concussion return to play protocols following the loss to Munster.

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Sean Farrell

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