Thursday 20 June 2019

Wedding rules Bundee Aki out of Perpignan but he will be back for Leinster

Bundee Aki got a special welcome on his return to New Zealand (Instagram/bundeeaki)
Bundee Aki got a special welcome on his return to New Zealand (Instagram/bundeeaki)
Connacht's Bundee Aki gives the thumbs-up. Photo: Sportsfile

John Fallon

Connacht will head to Perpignan this week hoping to keep their Challenge Cup campaign alive without their talisman Bundee Aki but boosted by confirmation that he will be back for their showdown with Leinster the following week in the Guinness PRO14.

The Ireland centre has returned home to New Zealand to get married and will miss the trip to Stade Aime Giral on Friday where Connacht need a win to stay in the hunt for qualification.

Aki played in the 22-10 win over Perpignan in dreadful conditions at the Sportsground at the weekend, but fears that he might miss the PRO14 clash with champions Leinster at the RDS on Saturday week have been dispelled.

Forwards coach Jimmy Duffy said that Aki's playing minutes, like all the internationals, were being managed in conjunction with the national team.

"He's back in early next week so will be available for selection. He has gone home to get married but he's back in early next week so he will definitely be considered for next week," said Duffy.

Connacht have a bit of ground to make up if they are to reach the knockout stages of the Challenge Cup and having failed to secure a bonus point in their wins over Bordeaux-Begles and Perpignan, as well as their loss away to leaders Sale Sharks, they are probably chasing one of the three spots available to the pool runners-up.

Perpignan, who look set to field Paddy Jackson after resting half of their side for the trip to Galway, have gone 14 games without a win this season.

That run, according to Duffy, makes them very dangerous opposition and emotions are set to run high at Stade Aime Giral on Friday night with the Catalan club in mourning following the death of a former star last week.

Former lock forward Barend Britz, who played and won the Yves du Manoir trophy for Perpignan with current coach Patrick Arlettaz in the 1990s, was killed in an attack outside his pub in the city centre last week.

"It's a big occasion for Perpignan, they are obviously searching for a win," Duffy added.

"And with a local hero, Barend Britz, unfortunately losing his life last week it's a big occasion.

"It would have been his birthday, his 64th, this weekend which is another tough thing for that club to take."

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