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Dublin: 11°C Monday 19 April 2021

'Playing for Ireland will take care of itself' - Bundee Aki focused on making impression with Connacht

The new recruit is a major coup for the province.

Bundee Aki: will head for in October.
Bundee Aki: will head for in October.
Image: Photosport/Anthony Au-Yeung/INPHO

BUNDEE AKI IS ready to give his all for Connacht to fulfil his dream of playing international rugby.

The 24-year-old Chiefs centre, who won a Super 15 title last year, will join Connacht at the conclusion of the 2014 ITM Cup in six months’ time.

Aki is eligible for both Samoa and New Zealand, but after signing a three-year contract with Connacht, the talented centre is clearly being lined up as a project player for Ireland.

It is a path that Brett Wilkinson and Richardt Strauss have taken, and the likes of CJ Stander and Jared Payne are sure to follow in the coming year.

“I’ll be happy to play wherever Pat Lam wants me to, whether that’s at 12 or 13,” Aki told “It’s pretty simple, really, I just want to play well for Connacht and add some real value to the team. My main focus is just impressing for Connacht and the rest – playing for Ireland — will take care of itself”

Amid the departure of Eoin Griffin to London Irish, and the recent retirement of Kyle Tonetti, the move represents a real statement of intent from Pat Lam.

Connacht — who need to make the top six of the Top 12 to qualify for the Heineken Cup — could well have one of Europe’s most exciting centre partnerships next season with Robbie Henshaw at 13 and Aki at 12.

However, while it’s an undoubted coup for Connacht, it was an incredibly difficult decision for the selfless Aki –despite the fact that Sonny Bill Williams is returning to the Chiefs next season.

Bundee Aki celebrates Source: Photosport/Mark Taylor/INPHO

This is a man, after all, who even gave up rugby to work in a bank for a year in 2010 to support his wife and two small children.

“That was a real year of growing up for me. It made me appreciate the opportunities I had in rugby. Coming to Connacht was also a very difficult decision to make and the initial contact only came about through my agent.

“In the end, it was a decision that I thought would be best for my family. Pat Lam and Craig Clarke [the Chiefs' ex-captain] had no influence in our decision, none at all. My family was the driving factor.”

Aki has just recovered from reconstruction shoulder surgery, making his first appearance of the season in the 22-16 win against the Rebels last Saturday. The 24-year-old will join Connacht at the end of October.

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Ciaran Kelly

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