Sport Rugby

Tuesday 27 September 2016

Muliaina denies wrongdoing as Aki boosts Connacht

Published 07/04/2015 | 02:30

Connacht's Bundee Aki has been out since January with an ankle injury but should line out alongside Robbie Henshaw in the centre on Saturday
Connacht's Bundee Aki has been out since January with an ankle injury but should line out alongside Robbie Henshaw in the centre on Saturday

Connacht officials will meet with Mils Muliaina in the coming days to discuss his next move as he returned to Galway after being held for questioning on suspicion of a sexual assault in Cardiff last month.

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The All Black centurion denies any wrongdoing, according to a Connacht Rugby statement issued yesterday evening which also confirmed he was released from custody on bail without charge after he "cooperated fully" with South Wales police.

The province earlier confirmed that the New Zealander would miss between two and three weeks of action as a result of adductor strain he suffered during the first half of Friday night's defeat to Gloucester.

That loss ended Pat Lam's side's hopes of European glory this season, but his main job now is to ensure the Muliaina controversy does not unbalance his squad for the remainder of the campaign.

Currently occupying the final European qualification spot on points difference with four games remaining, the westerners are boosted by the return of Bundee Aki to their midfield for Saturday's pivotal derby against Ulster.

Aki has been out since January with an ankle injury but should line out alongside Robbie Henshaw in the centre on Saturday. Lam also welcomes Eoin McKeon back after he came through the return-to-play protocols following a concussion, and Ronan Loughney, who has been out with an adductor strain.

With his side clinging on to the final automatic Champions Cup qualification place with four games remaining, the coach needs his team to arrest their run of three defeats in a row against their provincial rivals.

With four games remaining in the Guinness Pro12, Connacht lead seventh-placed Edinburgh on points difference, with the Scarlets three points back.

The Scottish side host Munster on Saturday, while the Welsh region are away to bottom side Zebre. Of the three sides, the Irish province have the toughest run-in, with games against three of the top four as well as a trip to Zebre.

It appears second-row Mick Kearney has played his last game for Connacht after aggravating his toe injury before the Gloucester game. Leinster are expected to announce their capture of the lock in the coming days.

Young centre Conor Finn's campaign is also over after he tore his cruciate ligament, but the shoulder and rib injuries suffered respectively by Andrew Browne and Matt Healy are not as bad as first feared and they'll return to training this week.

Irish Independent

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