Saturday 4 February 2023 Dublin: 3°C
Ben Brady/INPHO Bundee Aki (file pic).
# Going nowhere
Friend scoffs at reports that Bundee Aki could be on his way to Munster
The Ireland star had been contracted to the end of the World Cup but signed an extension some time ago.

CONNACHT DIRECTOR of rugby Andy Friend has scoffed at reports that Bundee Aki could transfer to Munster and is confident that the province’s only British and Irish Lion in the professional era will be at the Sportsground next season.

Aki had been contracted to the end of the World Cup but signed an extension some time ago which will run to the summer of 2024 and Friend, who departs at the end of this campaign, is confident the 32-year-old will remain with the province.

“I’ve no doubt he’ll be here. It’s all just paper talk as far as I’m aware,” said Friend.

There had been an internal disciplinary issue with Aki prior to Christmas but it’s understood that was dealt with and did not linger, but his absence since his last game on 23 December has led to speculation.

Their dismal loss to Newcastle Falcons last weekend, which cost them the chance to be in Ireland all the way to the final and which leaves them now facing a tricky trip to Treviso to play Benetton in the quarter-finals of the Challenge Cup, has put the focus back on Aki’s absence.

“He’s certainly not surplus. As we know he’s away for the next five weeks with Six Nations, and the ideal scenario is that he has a great Six Nations, he comes back and is raring to go and playing his best footy for our last, what it will be at that stage, five or more games. That’s the ideal situation,” added Friend.

“We picked that team based upon form, based upon what we felt was right for that weekend, and we didn’t get the job done which is very disappointing, so we’ve got to own that. At the time we selected the team, it was the right team.”

The focus now switches to the URC where their poor start has left them little wriggle room if they are to have any chance of nailing one of the Champions Cup spots, and they are fiver points adrift of that going into Saturday’s clash with the Lions at the Sportsground.

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Winger Alex Wootton has been ruled out with a HIA, while centre/wing Byron Ralston is not available due to an ankle injury. Captain Jack Carty is recovering from a knee injury which ruled him out of the trip to Newcastle, while hooker Dave Heffernan is struggling with a knee injury.

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