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'He's good craic, he's at the centre of all the banter we have'

Henderson hails Bundee Aki's influence

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Bundee Aki celebrates Ireland's win over New Zealand on Saturday

Bundee Aki celebrates Ireland's win over New Zealand on Saturday

Bundee Aki celebrates Ireland's win over New Zealand on Saturday

Bundee Aki gathered the troops together after giving their all.

On this rare occasion, what Ireland threw at the All Blacks was enough to make history stick.

It was time for Aki to lead his 'brothers in arms,' if not from birth, in a familiar post-match celebration that was half-rubbing their hands with glee and half-shooting their fingers towards the stars, gathered over The Aviva.

In the build-up, the Auckland-born New Zealander, of Samoan descent, was a target for low personal shots made under the banner of 'the greater good of the game.'

In the aftermath, a journalist wrote a piece about Ireland's increasing number of New Zealanders making a difference.

The headline asked were these Celtic Kiwis 'backstabbers or boys done good?

"To call him a backstabber that's probably a bit sly, if I'm being honest," offered Iain Henderson at Carton House yesterday.

"I feel the amount of work he has put in, with Connacht and in Ireland, he's completely justified to be wearing the green jersey, and the amount he's given to it.

"It takes an awful lot for someone to say, right, well that is the pathway I am going to choose with so many years of work ahead of you and the expectation that puts on you."

World Rugby dictate the terms and conditions under which players can work at home and abroad.

Don't forget, Aki moved to Connacht, not exactly an Irish powerhouse, never mind European, to bring about a change in his life and the culture there.

All he has done is follow the rules and Joe Schmidt decided that was good enough for him, good enough for Ireland.

Henderson was able to shed some light on the meaning of the celebration, created by the centre.

"Honestly, it's just like an in-house thing, kind of like a team bonding we kind of get going and he's right in the middle of it.

"He's good craic, he's in the centre of all the banter that we have," said Henderson (right).

"In that celebration, we would do it occasionally after training, we do it after good games we've won and he leads it.

"He kind of comes up with these actions and clapping and double clapping, and bits and pieces he pulls out of his hat.

"It gets everyone in a good mood after a game and after a good training session and, essentially, it's just a bit of fun, a bit of a celebration that we have."

The levity Aki brings to Carton House is an important element in finding relief from an intense environment.

"Bundee kind of leads that and that just paints a bit of a picture as to the character he is and then adding enjoyment to what can be a very tough and stressful role at some stages."

There is a difference between being a leader and being a winner and, sometimes, it just comes down to where you work, not how you work.

For many years, Rory Best has been a leader at Ulster, a place where the overall structure and talent depth chart has not provided the platform for silverware.

He had to become the Ireland captain to truly show his value above and beyond his main duties as a

"Yeah I think Rory would be the first to tell you that he's got a group of leaders around him as well," said Iain Henderson.

"It's not Rory steering a one-man ship," he said.

"He'd be the first to let you know that he kind of bestows his power on other people, so to speak.

"He enjoys letting other people have their opportunities to say their bit before games."

The presence of senior voices, like Peter O'Mahony, Jonathan Sexton, Rob Kearney and CJ Stander, allows Best to do it his way.

He is more a facilitator than a dictator

"Pete and Johnny would talk an awful lot during the week as well and Rory, I think, lets that happen.

"He doesn't want to take everything on himself," said the second row

"He shares that around people and, then instead of having one strong leader in the squad, it might go to three on the pitch.

"All of a sudden, there's a fifth of the people on the pitch you listen to and are leading you throughout the whole week.

"It's probably, potentially, more than because you've got people in the front row like Tadhg, he obviously bosses the scrum a wee bit.

"You have leaders filtered throughout the whole team, not just one person leading things.

Meanwhile, Conor Murray will return to full Munster training this week, while Seán O'Brien is touch-and-go to make the start of the Six Nations with a broken arm.


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