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Dublin: 8 °C Wednesday 12 December, 2018
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Bundee Aki will go to New Zealand to get married after beating All Blacks

The inspirational centre is expected back in time for the Christmas inter-pros.

Bundee Aki celebrates after the game Aki celebrates against the ABs. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

CONNACHT WILL HAVE to plan without both Bundee Aki and Kieran Marmion for the next few games after their heroics with Ireland.

Marmion faces three months on the sidelines after surgery on his ankle injury, while centre Aki has been granted leave by Connacht and the IRFU to return to New Zealand for his wedding.

Neither players will be available for the European double-header against Perpignan, Marmion will be out until February, although Aki is expected back in time to face Leinster at the RDS in the week before Christmas.

“We are excited to have Bundee back but he needs to have a break from IRFU duties, which will be over this next period of time,” said head coach Andy Friend.

Bundee Aki takes a picture with his 6 year old daughter Adrianna Aki and family members Aki celebrates his Ireland debut against South Africa with family. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

“He is actually going to head home and he and his partner (Kayla) are getting married. That was agreed to a while ago, that he would head back to New Zealand and have some time for his wedding.

“There is a brief time for him to head home, get married and then he’ll be back with up in the middle of December. He should be (back for the inter-pros).”

Tadhg Furlong, Jonathan Sexton, Bundee Aki, Cian Healy, Luke McGrath, Rob Kearney, Joey Carbery and Jack McGrath celebrate winning Aki leading Ireland's celebrations after the win over New Zealand. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Marmion’s absence is more serious for Connacht though. With Conor Murray sidelined through injury Marmion staked his claim for the back-up scrum-half shirt ahead of the Six Nations, but he now faces a race to prove his fitness ahead of their competition opener against England on 2 February following ankle surgery.

Marmion originally picked up the injury in Connacht’s win against Ulster last month, but he aggravated it playing for Ireland against Argentina, and then played an hour against New Zealand a week later.

“He [Marmion] is a tough individual. He was very focused and driven for that New Zealand performance, you could see it in his eyes as he built up to it. He knew there was an opportunity for him there and he certainly produced on the night.

“I think it’s just a taste of things to come from him. He’s quality and he’s tough and he’s got all the resilience and quality that you want from a player as well as the skill-set. The important thing for him now is to get it fixed and get back as quickly as possible.

Kieran Marmion Marmion calls his receivers into line against New Zealand. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“Caolin Blade has been outstanding for us and in all honesty it was tough to not be selecting him even as well as Marmo has been going. It was tough on Bladey because he hasn’t done much wrong. James Mitchell gets his opportunity now and it’s a real important time for him too.”

Connacht open their two-game tour of South Africa this Sunday when they take on the Southern Kings before they go on to meet the Cheetahs six days later.

Back into the squad comes Gavin Thornbury following his two-month lay-off with a shoulder injury, while Paul Boyle (shoulder), Peter McCabe (head) and Matt Healy (foot) are also in the touring 25 following injury.

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Declan Rooney

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