Friday 24 May 2019

Aki a doubt for final pool game as Connacht target home comforts

'Despite picking up a knock midway through the half at Sixways, Aki played the full 80 minutes, but afterwards he was in considerable discomfort due to the dead leg.' Picture: Sportsfile
'Despite picking up a knock midway through the half at Sixways, Aki played the full 80 minutes, but afterwards he was in considerable discomfort due to the dead leg.' Picture: Sportsfile

Declan Rooney

A dead leg could well keep Bundee Aki out of Connacht's bid to clinch a home quarter-final in the Challenge Cup, but the recently capped Irish international is just happy to be on song in the green shirt.

Aki was an instrumental performer in the 24-24 draw with Worcester Warriors that sealed Connacht's spot in the last eight, and since his return from Ireland duty in November the centre has shown top form for Connacht.

The renewal of his partnership with Robbie Henshaw for Ireland has certainly lifted him.

"It was good to link up with him (Henshaw) over there. We just got into click plays again and it was good to give a bit of banter as well, so it was good," said Aki.

"I did enjoy it. It was a memorable time for me and my family. It was great. It was probably one of the best times that I have had so far. It took a while to get there but it was good."

Since that 2015-16 title-winning season Aki has become a watched man by opposition defences, and his role as a creator has had to develop as a result.

But as a solid rock in defence and a willing ball carrier, Aki's attacking spark means he is favourite to line out alongside Henshaw for Joe Schmidt's team in the upcoming Six Nations.

Consistently

"I wouldn't look too far ahead. It's never a given that (you get an) Irish jersey. You just have to make sure you keep working, keep playing consistently and do the best you can to help out your team and if the call comes upon yourself you are more than happy to take it on board and with two hands."

Despite picking up a knock midway through the half at Sixways, Aki played the full 80 minutes, but afterwards he was in considerable discomfort due to the dead leg.

Coach Kieran Keane will be keen to call on his services against Oyonnax on Saturday, where current fourth seeds Connacht will look to climb into the top two places to ensure a home semi-final. With all the other four pool leaders away from home this weekend they have a good chance.

That ranking is important if Connacht reach the semi-final for the fourth time in their history, and Aki is keen to claim a second piece of silverware for the province.

"It would be good. It's a different kind of tournament. Winning the silverware is always good," Aki said. "The good thing about it is everything still lies in our hands, it is still under our control.

"A few years back we were relying on other squads or other teams to do the result for us. But at the moment we are relying on ourselves and making sure that we do what we need to do to get where we want to be."

Irish Independent

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