Banned Aki ruled out of Connacht's Euro qualifier
Connacht's prospects of reaching the European Champions Cup next season have been dealt a severe blow after star centre Bundee Aki was handed a three-match ban for misconduct.
The New Zealander was punished for his "behaviour to and remarks directed towards" Welsh referee Ian Davies during and immediately after his side's defeat to Leinster two weeks ago.
He will miss their remaining regular season games against Scarlets and Munster, but more importantly he will be banned for their crucial knock-out play-off.
The seventh and eighth-placed teams in the Guinness PRO12 enter a two-round play-off series with the seventh-placed teams from the English Premiership and the French Top14.
The seventh-placed team, currently Cardiff Blues, will take on the French opposition while the eighth-placed team, currently Connacht, will take on the English side.
Aki admitted to the charge of misconduct when appearing in front of the two-man disciplinary panel over video-link. He has the right of appeal.
Meanwhile, Connacht yesterday confirmed the departure of 11 players ahead of the arrival of new coach Kieran Keane, including ex-Ireland prop Ronan Loughney.