central contract

Connacht positive that new Bundee Aki deal is 'getting closer every day'

The 29-year-old Ireland international has been negotiating with the IRFU.

CONNACHT BOSS ANDY Friend is optimistic that the province and the IRFU can finalise Bundee Aki’s new contract as they inch closer to securing the Ireland centre’s services beyond the end of this season.

The 29-year-old’s current deal expires at the conclusion of this campaign and he has naturally drawn interest from abroad, but Friend feels an agreement on Aki staying put in Connacht is imminent.

bundee-aki Tommy Dickson / INPHO Aki has been in discussions with the IRFU. Tommy Dickson / INPHO / INPHO

Aki is negotiating directly with the IRFU in this instance as his new deal will be a full central contract with the union, which would be a first for the province.

With Kieran Marmion having agreed on a new three-year provincial deal to stay with Connacht until 2023 just last week, there is now a growing expectation that good news on Aki’s future is incoming. 

“I believe that with every day it’s getting closer,” said Friend at yesterday’s Guinness Pro14 media day at Cardiff City Stadium.

“There’s certainly a lot of positivity coming out of Bundee around his energy towards Connacht and our energy towards him.

“Listen, he’s been fantastic in his time here and we continue to see the man growing every day. He’s got great energy around the group, he’s very passionate towards Connacht and everything we’re doing.

“He’s a big part of us moving forward, so with every day we get closer and fingers crossed the decision is made the right way.”

Aki was absent for Connacht’s defeat away to Toulouse in the Heineken Champions Cup last weekend due to a hamstring issue but Friend’s side still performed well, albeit coming up short on a 32-17 scoreline.

Four days on from the loss in France, Friend recounted his side’s annoyance at letting an opportunity slip.

peter-robb-and-conor-fitzgerald-dejected James Crombie / INPHO Connacht were left disappointed in Toulouse. James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

“Straight after the game in the changing room there was a sense of frustration from us all,” said Friend.

“We were in there and we let it slip so we’ve got to learn from that. Too many turnovers, too many penalties, against Toulouse with them at home, it’s probably not going to end in your favour.

“But it didn’t feel like the scoreline was reflective of the game. I thought we actually put in a pretty good shift for 65 minutes, but you’ve got to play for 80 minutes to win those ones.

“In the end, when we got that close we should be picking up a point and we definitely shouldn’t be giving them five points. That was the frustrating thing, after the bell they get their bonus-point try and the scoreline looks really skewed.

“That’s the frustrating thing, that we didn’t finish it off. We’d worked really hard to at least get a point and I still felt – I’m the eternal optimist – we could still win it. But we didn’t.”

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