Saturday 4 February 2023 Dublin: 3°C
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# ireland's call (on hold)
Aki remains coy on international future despite Connacht commitment
The brilliant centre will be eligible to play for Ireland next year, but he is also available to New Zealand and Samoa.

BUNDEE AKI MAY have committed his future to Connacht, but the reigning Pro12 player of the season remains coy about his international future.

The 26-year old is eligible to play for New Zealand, Samoa and, from later this year, Ireland, but he is in no rush to make a commitment despite signing a three-year contract extension to remain at the Sportsground.

That was before Pat Lam announced he was leaving at the end of the season, invoking a six-month notice clause which allowed him to depart a year before his contract is up. Connacht chief executive Willie Ruane says none of the players have such a release clause in their contracts.

Aki, out until next month with an ankle injury, didn’t hide his frustration when he became aware of Lam’s shock decision to leave, tweeting that he was ‘feeling pissed’ after being told.

The centre had since admitted he may have overreacted and that he is adjusting to what life will be like at Connacht when Lam leaves for Bristol at the end of the season.

But Aki, who has chalked up 53 appearances since he arrived at the Sportsground, is reluctant to declare for Joe Schmidt’s Ireland or become distracted by events outside Connacht.

“I literally do not know what I want to do at the end of the season, or who I want to play for. First off, I need to make sure that Connacht do well and hopefully we can do that,” he said.

Bundee Aki with his family after the game Tommy Dickson / INPHO The Akis celebrate a Connacht win. Tommy Dickson / INPHO / INPHO

Aki’s barn-storming performances were key to Connacht’s historic success last season and other than sitting out a trip to Treviso late in the campaign, he featured in each of the other 23 games on their march to Pro12 glory, scoring six tries in the process.

He was one of seven Connacht players selected in the Pro12 team of the season and then went on to collect the top individual award. And he said that the bus journey to the stadium in Murrayfield will always stay with him.

“It was probably one of the biggest things that brought everything home,” added Aki, who was speaking at a charity event for Cope Galway.

“I have played in three finals before I came here. That was my fourth one and it was probably one of the best things that ever happened.

“I can remember when the bus stopped and we got off, you could literally hear it over the headphones. You start getting goosebumps after that.”

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