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Dublin: 9°C Friday 7 May 2021

Connacht hoping Aki recovers from knee issue for crucial Munster clash

The Ireland centre has been absent over the past two weekends.

Aki at the Sportsground for Connacht's recent meeting with Ulster.
Aki at the Sportsground for Connacht's recent meeting with Ulster.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

CONNACHT ARE HOPEFUL Bundee Aki will overcome a knee injury to be available for Saturday night’s huge Guinness Pro14 clash with Munster at the Sportsground.

The Conference B rivals will face off in an inter-provincial clash in Galway and Connacht boss Andy Friend says it’s still unclear whether Aki will recover in time to play. 

The talismanic centre was absent for the recent inter-pro games against Ulster and Leinster but could return from his knee injury this weekend.

Connacht were also without Ireland internationals Dave Heffernan, Kieran Marmion, and Finlay Bealham last weekend as they won against Leinster at the RDS, but Friend says their availability is also still up in the air.

Last week, Connacht confirmed that “a small number” of unnamed players had tested positive for Covid-19, with a number of other unnamed players identified as close contacts who had to self-isolate as a result.

“It’s to be determined yet,” said Friend this afternoon when asked who Connacht can welcome back this weekend.

“Bundee has got a knee injury at the minute which we’re working through.

“We’ve got a few other blokes who, as is the case at the moment, it’s day by day where you’re checking on their availability. Hopefully, we’ll get a couple more back but we’ll wait and see.”

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Connacht weren’t deterred by having a few key men absent last weekend as they earned a superb bonus-point victory over Leinster, winning in Dublin for the first time since 2002.

Next up is a crucial meeting with Conference B leaders Munster on Saturday evening, with the visitors expected to bring back their frontline players.

With only the winners of each conference qualifying for the Pro14 final this season and second-placed Connacht already eight points behind Munster, this looks like a make-or-break tie. Friend wants to see his players backing up what they did last weekend.

“I’d love for that to be our new bar and, in fact, I’d love for us to go beyond that,” said the Connacht head coach.

“Quinn Roux’s message [Roux was captain last weekend], and he’s right, was that it actually means bugger-all this week if we come out and we don’t have that same energy and get turned over easily by what will be a very strong Munster side.

“One of the things we talk about is that if we’re a team that should be 20 points better than the opposition, well then let’s beat them by 20 points or more. If they’re a team where it should be a genuine arm wrestle, may the best team win.

“I reckon this weekend is going to be the contest between two very good sides. May the best team win.”

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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