Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Aki in red-hot form after Farrell told him not to get too 'skinny' like 2019

The 33-year-old Ireland centre will win his 50th Ireland cap this weekend in Paris.

IT HAS BEEN obvious watching Bundee Aki in recent weeks that he’s in the best physical condition he’s been in for a long time. The Ireland centre is in red-hot form coming into Saturday’s clash with the Springboks. He’s always been explosive but these days, he looks even quicker and more dynamic than before.

Ireland’s wins over Romania and Tonga in the last two weeks have been them rack up 20 tries, with Aki bagging four of them. In both games, he has scorched home from long-range to show off his pace.

“I’ve always backed myself as in being quick but I have to prove to these boys that I’m quicker than them every now and again, which I’m not,” joked 33-year-old Aki today.

“I’m probably just quite lucky, they’re all coming towards the end of the game.”

There’s not much fortune about Aki’s fine form. It takes lots of hard work. He feels great physically, having been too lean at the last World Cup in 2019.

Back then, he dropped as much body fat as possible and felt his game suffered for it.

This time around, he feels he’s in a much better place with his conditioning and body composition. His head coach, Andy Farrell, is happy too.

“The S&C crew put together a great programme for us in pre-season,” said Aki.

“It’s a big difference from 2019 the way I was. I think Faz told me straight away not to go back to that skinny, not going back there!”

bundee-aki-celebrates-after-scoring-a-second-try Aki has scored four tries in two games in France. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

Saturday will be a milestone occasion for Aki, who is set to earn his 50th Ireland cap. He’s never one to look short of motivation or emotion in his performances, so the Connacht man says this weekend will be about not letting the achievement become a big thing.

“It’s a huge occasion but I’ll try not to treat it as a big occasion, just try to treat it as a game and do the things I do every week,” said Aki. “Obviously, we’re going up against the world champions.

“For myself and my family, it’s a huge honour to be able to pull on the jersey 50 times. Every time you pull on that jersey, you try to play as best you can and put your best foot forward.”

Aki might be playing some of the best rugby of his career at the moment, but he stresses that the players around him allow him to do his job.

Ireland’s strength is their collective approach and how connected they are on both sides of the ball, with Aki pointing out how that makes his life easier.

“I’m just quite lucky to get on the end of those tries and it’s those boys the way they set up the ball for us and make our jobs a lot easier than normal,” said Aki.

“I wouldn’t put it down to anything, everyone is doing a good job and I’m just the lucky one to get on the end of it.”
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