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Bundee Aki set to return from injury for Connacht's trip to Leicester

The centre hasn’t featured for the province since picking up a knee injury during the November international window.

Connacht centre Bundee Aki.
Connacht centre Bundee Aki.
Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

BUNDEE AKI LOOKS set to return from injury for Connacht’s Heineken Champions Cup meeting with Leicester Tigers on Sunday.

The centre hasn’t featured for Connacht since picking up a knee injury during the autumn international window. 

However he now looks set to return for Connacht round two clash with Premiership leaders Leicester at Welford Road this weekend.

“At this stage he’s looking likely to be available,” said Connacht head coach, Andy Friend.

“He’s a great energy around the group. To go to Welford Road you need your most experienced, and biggest players and Bundee is certainly one of those. If he’s available there’s every chance he’ll be playing.”

However the game could come too soon for winger Mack Hansen, who sat out Sunday’s win against Stade Francais with a calf problem. 

“He’s getting better, but we’ll wait and see how the week plays out as to where he ends up,” Friend said.

Connacht made a strong start to their Champions Cup campaign with a six-try bonus point win against Stade, but the trip to Leicester represents another step up, with the Tigers unbeaten in 10 games across the Premiership and Champions Cup this season, winning away to Bordeaux at the weekend.

“I think their game style is pretty obvious, what they’re trying to do,” Friend continued.

“They had something like 55 or 57 kicks at the weekend (against Bordeaux), so it’s very much a territory based game, with good half-backs that kick, and a good back three that kick. They have a big forward pack so set-piece will be important.

They’re looking pretty strong this year with 10 wins from 10. We’ll be turning up against a team at Welford Road that’s full of confidence with a game style that’s currently working for them. We’ll have to be ready for that, which we will be, and see if we can counter it in some way.”

However Friend added that Connacht will also look to impose their own gameplan on the Tigers.

“We’ve got to be us, that’s why you have an identity. You have an identity because you believe in it and you train for it, and it’s what you do.

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“Similar to Leicester having an identity, which they do. I don’t know what words they use but you can see the way they pay. Everyone knows what they try to do, and they do it very, very well. We have an identity which we talked about which we’re working hard to make sure we put out on the pitch every single game, and I think we’re getting better at.

“We have to respect the strengths they have, which we will, but at the same time it’s more about us and what we do and how we play our game.”

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Ciarán Kennedy

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