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Bundee Aki 'like a man possessed' as Connacht target back-to-back wins

The Ireland centre is fit to face Cardiff Blues but Niall Murray looks set to undergo shoulder surgery.

Bundee Aki pictured during Connacht's win over Glasgow Warriors in the Guinness Pro14 last Saturday.
Bundee Aki pictured during Connacht's win over Glasgow Warriors in the Guinness Pro14 last Saturday.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

CONNACHT HAVE ALLAYED injury concerns over Bundee Aki ahead of Saturday’s Guinness Pro14 meeting with Cardiff Blues.

Aki was seen icing his leg after being substituted towards the end of a thrilling win over Glasgow Warriors in last weekend’s season opener.

The Ireland centre had played a pivotal role at the Sportsground, contributing two tries to his side’s 28-24 victory.

However, Aki looks set to be available in Wales this weekend as Connacht bid to begin a season with back-to-back wins for the first time since 2014-15.

“Bundee is fine, there’s no keeping him down! He did a bit of the training [yesterday] and we’re just trying to mind him,” said attack coach Nigel Carolan.

With a busy period on the horizon for Ireland, Connacht will have to plan without Aki. According to Carolan, others will need to step up to the plate in order to minimise the impact of the absence of such a talismanic member of the squad.

He said: “Even when he [Aki] is not training he’s in the middle giving encouragement and shouting instructions. He’s like a man possessed, it’s incredible the energy that he’s bringing – not only to games, but training.

“In his absence over the next few weeks, it’s something that the rest of the guys will need to redress and they’ll need to find a way to replicate that because it gives such life to training and games, which is phenomenal.”

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Carolan was also glowing in his praise of rejuvenated half-backs Kieran Marmion and Jack Carty, who’ll both be hoping to earn the recognition of Ireland head coach Andy Farrell over the coming weeks.

connachts-jack-carty-kicks-a-penalty Jack Carty kicking a penalty for Connacht against Glasgow Warriors. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“Marmo has been amazing. On the whole he’s passing well, kicking well, he’s got great energy defensively – he was like a demon the other day [against Glasgow Warriors] – and he’s got that bite back.

“Off the field he’s contributing, he’s challenging, he’s encouraging and he’s stepping up into a real leadership role. When he speaks, players respect him. His leadership skills are transferring onto the field and his presence on the pitch has improved drastically on the back of that.

“Jack is a real confidence player. After the World Cup he hit a dip and he just struggled with his own form. It wasn’t that Conor Fitz had taken his place ahead of him, it was just that Jack wasn’t the same player.

“He was lacking that bit of spark that he had, which got him to the World Cup. Just inaccuracy in kicking and passing, it’s hard to put your finger on it, but just before the lockdown he started to get his confidence back, his tactical kicking and game management came back and he’s grown in confidence from that.

“I think he’s starting to get his spark back.”

On the injury front, 20-year-old lock Niall Murray is facing a lengthy spell on the sidelines after damaging his shoulder. Carolan described it as “quite a serious” injury which is likely to require surgery.

About the author:

Paul Dollery

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