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Dublin: 8 °C Saturday 19 October, 2019
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Boost for Connacht as Aki to return for Leinster showdown after wedding

The focus is on Perpignan first though, a trip the Ireland international misses as he’s home in New Zealand.

Bundee Aki (file pic).
Bundee Aki (file pic).
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

CONNACHT WILL HEAD to Perpignan this week hoping to keep their Challenge Cup campaign alive without their talisman Bundee Aki but boosted by confirmation that he will be back for their showdown with Leinster the following week.

The Irish centre has returned home to New Zealand to get married and will miss the trip to Stade Aime Giral where Connacht need a win to keep their qualification hopes alive.

Aki played in the 22-10 win over Perpignan in dreadful conditions at the Sportsground at the weekend but fears that he might miss the Pro14 clash with champions Leinster at the RDS on Saturday week have been dispelled.

Forwards coach Jimmy Duffy said that Aki’s playing minutes, like all the internationals, were being managed in conjunction with the national team.

“He’s back in early next so will be available for selection. He has gone home to get married but he’s back in early next week so he will definitely be considered for next week,” said Duffy.

Connacht have a bit of ground to make up if they are to reach the knockout stages of the Challenge Cup and having failed to secure a bonus point in their wins over Bordeaux-Begles and Perpignan, as well as their loss away to leaders Sale Sharks, are probably chasing one of the three spots available to the pool runners-up.

Sale Sharks lead the pool with a maximum 15 points from three games but while Connacht are seven points adrift they are well in contention with the battle for the other runner-up slots in the eight pools and also have a home clash with Sale to come.

Jimmy Duffy Duffy speaking to the media yesterday. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Perpignan have gone 14 games without a win this season. That run, according to Duffy, makes them very dangerous opposition and emotions are set to run high at Stade Aime Giral on Friday night with the Catalan club in mourning following the killing of a former star last week.

Former lock forward Barend Britz, who played and won the Yves du Manoir trophy for Perpignan with current coach Patrick Arlettaz in the 1990s, was killed in an attack outside his pub in the city centre last week. The pub owned by Britz, a former policeman in his native South Africa, was a regular haunt for players and fans over the years.

Duffy said they expect a searching test as they bid to extend their winning run in all competitions to five games.

“It’s a big occasion for Perpignan, they are obviously searching for a win. And with a local hero, Barend Britz, unfortunately losing his life last week it’s a big occasion. It would have been his birthday, his 64th, this weekend which is another tough thing for that club to take.

“It’s a club with a lot of history but we are picking a team to win over there. I worked down there many years ago. It’s a very proud club with a lot of history and a lot of success behind them.

“We know that down there it’s going to be a lot of passion and energy with the circumstances,” added the Connacht forwards coach.

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John Fallon

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