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'The camera can be very deceiving' - Aki downplays impressive post-lockdown physique

The Connacht star attracted lots of attention when he returned to club training.

CONNACHT’S BUNDEE AKI has dismissed all the attention he received after returning to club training in impressive shape earlier this year, saying he doesn’t see any difference in himself.

At the time, photos showed the Kiwi-born centre carrying some new muscle mass with head coach Andy Friend recently saying that this is the fittest that Aki has been since he arrived to take the reins at Connacht two years ago.

CCC_IRELAND_2020_BUNDEE_AKI_ALT_FINAL_CMYK Bundee Aki's Connacht will get their Pro14 campaign underway again this weekend.

But, with the return of the Guinness Pro14 approaching this weekend, Aki says the focus on his appearance has been puzzling for him.

“The camera can be very deceiving these days, can’t it?” he said when asked for his take on the public reaction to his post-lockdown physical condition.

You’ve got the lighting right, the angle right. I obviously got the lighting and the angle right at that moment! Fair play to the cameraman whoever got it! I don’t know.

“I look at myself as the same shape that I was when lockdown started really. I don’t see any difference maybe because I don’t look at myself too much really.”

Commenting on his approach to training during the Covid-19 lockdown, Aki says it wasn’t his intention to reinvent his body shape before returning to collective training.

“It was just time on my hands really,” he explains.

“I had nothing else to do. I got some gym gear from Core Sports and Connacht as well so I had nothing else to do except gym [work] and weights.

“I think everybody else came in good nick as well so that was good. Yeah, I was pretty pleased with it.”

Connacht have two final Pro14 games to play, with Ulster awaiting them in the Avivia Stadium this Sunday before a quick turn around to face Munster at the same venue on 30 August.

The Western province also look set to secure a place in next season’s Champions Cup competition, which may also be expanded to 24 teams for 2020/2021.

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bundee-aki Aki pictured at pre-season training. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

For Aki, there’s also international rugby business to attend to later this year. The conclusion of Ireland’s Six Nations campaign begins with a home tie against Italy on 24 October followed by a visit to France on 31 October, where a shot at the title is still there for Andy Farrell’s side.

A new once-off eight-nations tournament will follow in November, a competition which coincides with Leinster’s James Lowe becoming eligible for selection. The New Zealand native qualifies for Ireland early in that month after three years of residency here.

“I played with him at the Chiefs and he’s an unbelievable player,” says Aki in praise of the star Leinster winger.

He’s obviously done really well with Leinster. I think he’s international calibre as well. I have no doubt that if he keeps playing the way he is and if he gets named in the squad or if anybody else gets named in the squad, fair play to him.”

It’s only three years since Aki became Irish qualified, something which sparked plenty of debate and sometimes hostility at the time towards the project player rule. Incidentally, the residency rule will expand to five years in 2021.

“I said before as well, it’s people’s opinions really. What opinions really matters the most is how you take it and people around you, and that’s their opinion.

“You just got to make sure that the coach’s opinion [is the one] that matters, the team and the guys around you that matters the most. Just take it as it is. I certainly just try to put it away and just be like, ‘that’s people’s opinions.’ That’s what it is, just people’s opinion really.”

Canterbury, the official kit partner to Irish Rugby, has revealed the new Ireland Rugby Home and Alternate jerseys that will be worn throughout the 2020/21 season.

It is a new era for Irish Rugby, and the latest technology is at the heart of the new Ireland Home and Alternate Test jerseys which are on sale now from Elverys.ie, in-store and on Canterbury.com.

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