Friday 20 July 2018

Major blow to Connacht's title hopes as Bundee Aki and Denis Buckley struggle to shake off injuries

Connacht's Denis Buckley and Bundee Aki congratulate each other. Photo: Sportsfile
Connacht's Denis Buckley and Bundee Aki congratulate each other. Photo: Sportsfile

John Fallon

Connacht’s hopes of Pro12 glory have been hit with a massive double blow with prop Denis Buckley possibly out for the remainder of the season and livewire centre Bundee Aki facing a race against time to make the final games.

The pair are probably the leading contenders for Connacht’s player of the season. Buckley has been ruled out of this Friday’s clash in Treviso and also the crunch final home clash against champions Glasgow Warriors, with coach Pat Lam conceding that he could be gone for the remainder of the campaign with an ankle fracture pictured up in training.

Aki, whose blitzkrieg performances have typified Connacht’s best ever season, is also ruled out of the trip to Treviso with Lam hoping that he might recover for the Glasgow game as he battles to recover from a knee injury.

“He is definitely unavailable for Treviso this week, and he will continue his progress under supervision of the medical and fitness teams. So at this stage, hopeful for the Glasgow game,” said Lam.

Buckley was injured in training on Friday and might not feature against this season, although Lam remains hopeful that the Roscommon native might again be back ahead of schedule from injury.

“We are talking, looking ahead realistically there is semi-finals, four weeks away, and final is five weeks away. Denis has always been miraculous with his recovery. But we have got to prepare that he is finished for the season, but you never know. It all happened on Friday, so it’s just unfortunate.

“It was innocuous, wasn’t even a contact drill. One of the players fell down going for the ball, and his leg was in the wrong place. It’s unfortunate but we just have to move on,” added Lam.

The Connacht coach, whose side need one more point to be guaranteed a first ever semi-final spot in the Pro12, will also have to plan without Irish tighthead Nathan White, who is continuing to recover from a concussion picked up in the win over Leinster. But Lam is boosted by the return to training this week of full-back Tiernan O’Halloran, out-half AJ MacGinty and back rower Jake Heenan.

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