Wednesday 22 January 2020

Bundee Aki and Ultan Dillane agree new Connacht deals

Bundee Aki has edged closer to Test rugby with Ireland by rejecting a move to France to sign a new Connacht deal until 2020.

Ireland's highly-promising lock Ultan Dillane has also completed a two-year contract extension to remain at Connacht, in a big double-boost to boss Pat Lam.

Auckland-born powerhouse Aki is understood to have rejected moves to Bordeaux and Munster, and will now qualify for Ireland on residency next year.

Dillane is also thought to have fielded interest from Munster, but two of Connacht's key stars have instead opted to remain with the reigning Guinness PRO12 champions.

"I'm really pleased that Bundee and Ultan have committed their futures to Connacht Rugby," said head coach Lam, admitting both stars had fielded offers to move elsewhere.

"Two talented rugby players, naturally their performances have attracted a lot of attention and there is no doubt that they had options in terms of where they could play.

"But I believe it is a massive statement about what we are doing here as a team and an organisation that they were both so determined to continue to play their part."

Former Chiefs centre Aki has lit up Connacht's back division with his powerful line-breaking instincts since his 2014 arrival.

The 26-year-old will add a bullish midfield edge to Ireland's Test options once available next year after completing the three-year residency period.

Home grown 22-year-old lock Dillane already boasts six Ireland caps after bursting onto the senior scene in the last 18 months.

The physical second row adds an extra dimension around the park to both Connacht and Ireland, and has now extended his stay at the Sportsground until 2019.

"Both Bundee and Ultan made it clear from the start that they were keen to stay and play their rugby with Connacht," said Connacht CEO Willie Ruane.

"They are truly committed to the overall vision for the province and their signatures are a big boost to the future of Connacht Rugby.

"We're delighted, for the two players and for our supporters, to be able to share this news."

Aki insisted he now calls Connacht home after two years in the west of Ireland.

"The last two years with Connacht Rugby have been incredible," said Aki.

"I moved over here not really knowing what to expect but this place has become home to me and my family now.

"I am proud to be part of this Connacht team and I'm excited to see what we can achieve together."

Academy graduate Dillane admitted his eagerness to repay Connacht's faith in guiding him through their ranks.

"Connacht Rugby has given me so many opportunities since I started in the academy and I'm delighted to have signed on again," said Dillane.

"I am enjoying my rugby so much here and am excited about the future of this team and the province."

PA Media

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