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Dublin: 10°C Saturday 15 May 2021

Friend keen on new deal for Aki 'but that's a decision that rests with the IRFU'

The Connacht head coach hopes the Ireland centre will join Kieran Marmion by signing a new contract.

bundee-aki-celebrates-with-fans Bundee Aki acknowledges supporters after Connacht's win against Montpellier on Sunday. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

CONNACHT HEAD COACH Andy Friend is hopeful that Bundee Aki will follow Kieran Marmion’s example and commit his future to the province by signing a contract extension.

Marmion penned a three-year extension to his Connacht contract this week, despite apparent interest from abroad to secure his signature. Coming on the back of last weekend’s Champions Cup win over French Top 14 side Montpellier, it caps a good few days for the province.

Aki, Connacht Rugby and the IRFU are all believed to be keen to secure a new contract for the Ireland international, a deal that is expected to be the first full IRFU central contract for a Connacht player, but the finer details have yet to be finalised.

“Bundee is really aware that we are very, very keen to have him here. The bits of noise that I’m getting is that he is keen but that’s a decision that rests with the IRFU,” said Friend.

“Kieran’s is a really important signing for us. I know when I was applying for the job and watching the Connacht games and watching the final there you could see he was the lifeline of the team.

“Such energy… everything he did, he was great. The way he carried and tackled, his support play is very, very good. So to know that he is going to be around for another three years is great.”

Connacht and Friend are in the middle of a six-day turnaround as they prepare to head to Stade Ernest Wallon on Saturday to face Top 14 champions Toulouse.

andy-friend Connacht head coach Andy Friend addressing the media yesterday. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Following Sunday’s victory against Montpellier, the province’s injury list swelled to 16 players, but their hopes of a second Pool 5 win have been boosted by the return of internationals Finlay Bealham, Quinn Roux and Matt Healy, while Tom Farrell, Shane Delahunt and Stephen Fitzgerald have also been reintegrated into training this week.

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This game has come a week too soon for Niyi Adeolokun (leg) and Eoin McKeon (calf). Friend is waiting on the results of a scan on Jarrad Butler’s knee injury, with fullback Darragh Leader also set to miss out after picking up a calf injury at the weekend.

However, according to Friend, all six of the players who returned to training could feature in the south of France.

“It’s a 41-man squad and we need to lean on everybody. It’s great having those people back and that’s compliments to the medical and performance staff who have worked hard to get them back.

“It’s really good to have fresh bodies coming back in. It’s a six-day turnaround for us, plus travel, so we need to be conscious of that. We’ll pick a side that we think can go over there and win.

“We could see all six. If we’ve got fresh bodies, because of injury they haven’t been able to play, they’re eager to play, on a six-day turnaround travelling to France you want to try and use that. There is every chance we’ll be using them.”

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Declan Rooney

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