Thursday 5 December 2019

Connacht boost as Aki edges 'closer' to first centralised contract in province's history


Bundee Aki. Photo: Sportsfile
Bundee Aki. Photo: Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Connacht are increasingly confident that Bundee Aki will extend his stay with the club beyond the end of the season.

The Ireland centre, whose current deal runs out next summer, is currently locked in negotiations with the IRFU over a centralised contract.

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Should Aki sign on the dotted line, he would become to first Connacht player to secure a national contract, which in turn would free up a large amount of the club's player budget for next season. The 29-year-old has attracted plenty of interest from overseas, but the Westerners are obviously desperate to keep hold of him.

Although Connacht are not directly involved in the contract talks, Andy Friend revealed that there have been positive developments.

"I believe that with every day it's getting closer," the Connacht head coach said. "There's certainly a lot of positivity coming out of Bundee around his energy towards Connacht and our energy towards him.

"Listen, he's been fantastic in his time here and we continue to see the man growing every day. He's got great energy around the group, he's very passionate towards Connacht and everything we're doing.

"He's a big part of us moving forward, so with every day we get closer and fingers crossed the decision is made the right way."

Aki missed Connacht's defeat in Toulouse last weekend due to a hamstring issue, but is pushing for a return for Saturday's home PRO14 clash against the Kings, which would be a boost ahead of the crucial back-to-back Champions Cup games with Gloucester.

Meanwhile, Ulster must decide whether to appeal the four-week ban handed down to Will Addison after he was found guilty of making a dangerous tackle during last Friday's win over Clermont. The full-back is now set to miss Ulster's dates against Harlequins unless the club mount a successful appeal.

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