Bundee Aki

  • Bundee Aki has returned to the Connacht starting team for their European Challenge Cup Quarter Final against Sale Sharks on Friday night (Kick Off 7:45pm - Live BT Sports 2). This will be Aki's first start for Connacht since featuring in all of Ireland's games in the recent Six Nations Championship.

     The Connacht side will be captained by hooker Tom McCartney, who makes his 100th appearance for the province. Carty also returns to the starting line-up, having come off the bench in the home win over Benetton last weekend. Alongside Carty will be fellow international Kieran Marmion who also featured off the bench last time out.

    In the back three, Darragh Leader is named at full back with Cian Kelleher and Niyi Adeolokun on the wings. Adeolokun makes his first start since November, when he picked up an arm injury against the Toyota Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.

    Aki's inclusion in the midfield sees him form a partnership with the versatile Kyle Godwin.

    Up front, props Peter McCabe and Dominic Robertson-McCoy join McCartney in the front row. While in the second row Gavin Thornbury continues his return from injury alongside James Cannon.

    In the back row Eoghan Masterson and James Connolly are named at blindside and openside respectively, with 22 year old Paul Boyle at number 8.

    (15-9) Darragh Leader, Niyi Adeolokun, Kyle Godwin, Bundee Aki, Cian Kelleher, Jack Carty, Kieran Marmion, (1-8) Peter McCabe, Tom McCartney (Capt), Dominic Robertson-McCoy, James Cannon, Gavin Thornbury, Eoghan Masterson, James Connolly, Paul Boyle.

    Replacements (16-23): Dave Heffernan, Denis Buckley, Finlay Bealham, Joe Maksymiw, Robin Copeland, Caolin Blade, Tom Daly, Stephen Fitzgerald.

     

  • Bundee Aki could be set to return against Leinster following his three match ban after the Samoa game.

    The Irish Independent reports that because Aki hasn’t played since the 12th of October he could be available for Connacht’s showdown with Ospreys on the 2nd of November.

    However, there is some confusion from World Rugby’s statement as to whether Aki received a three-week or three-match ban.

    If it is confirmed as a three match ban then Aki won’t return until the Western provinces’ clash with Leinster in the PRO 14 on the 8th of November.  


  • Iain Henderson will captain the Lions for the first time when Warren Gatland's face the Sharks in Johannesburg on Wednesday in the second of eight Tour matches.

    Connacht's Bundee Aki is also named in the starting 15, while Tour Captain Conor Murray is named amongst the replacements.

    Tadhg Furlong, Tadhg Beirne and Jack Conan are also named on the bench.

     

  • Connacht's Bundee Aki has signed a three-year contract extension that will keep him at the Sportsground up to the end of the 2022/23 season.

     

    It's the first full IRFU central contract for a Connacht player.

     

    Aki joined Connacht in 2014 and has played for the province 92 times, scoring 18 tries.

     

    He was selected as the Pro12 Player of the season in 2016 when the side won the championship.

  • Bundee Aki will make his first start of the season for Connacht against the Scarlets at the Sportsground tomorrow.

    The Irish international has been named in the centre as one of six changes.

    Former Munster back row Robin Copeland will make his debut for the Province in the at Number 8.

    Kick-off tomorrow at the Sportsground is at 5.15pm.

  • Bundee Aki will earn his 100th cap for Connacht in Sunday’s clash with Ulster.

    Alex Wooton and Peter O'Sullivan will make their debuts on the wings.

    New signings Ian Madigan and Alby Mathewson will be on the bench for Ulster.

  • Connacht have been boosted by confirmation that Bundee Aki will be available to face Leinster in their first interprovincial game of the season, as well as their return to Champions Cup rugby the following week.

    Aki will sit out the final game of his 3-match suspension away to Ospreys on Saturday - a ban that was handed down when he became the first Irish player to be sent off in a World Cup match, against Samoa earlier this month - but he will be back when Connacht take on Leinster on Friday week 8th November.

    Out-half Jack Carty will also make his return for the derby with Leinster at the Sportsground, following his impressive World Cup, after both internationals were pencilled in for training next week.

     

  • Connacht Rugby has announced a new home kit for the 2019/2020 season and it is available across all Elvery’s Sports stores in the province.

    The Pro 14 side have launched their new kit this morning with Bundee Aki, Jarad Butler and Sean O’Brien among the poster boss for the new blended green look.

    The first chance to see the new jersey in action will be in the developmental Celtic Cup games at the end of August, as Connacht’s young guns put their hands up for senior selection next year.

  • Bundee Aki has been banned for four matches following his red card in Saturday’s Six Nations win over England.

    The Connacht centre was dismissed for a high challenge on Billy Vunipola.

    Aki conceded his tackle was inches too high, and a six-week ban was imposed.

    Two weeks were chalked off due to his previous disciplinary record.

    It means Aki will definitely miss Connacht’s Challenge Cup last-16 trip to Leicester, and the quarter-final should they qualify.

  •  

    Connacht's Bundee Aki will meet the 36 other Lions in London today, as Warren Gatland hosts his first squad get-together  ahead of the tour of South Africa.

    Aki will then make his first appearance in 10 weeks when he togs out with Connacht against Benetton this Saturday evening in the Pro 14 Rainbow Cup.

    Connacht attack coach Pete Wilkins has warned his players that they will need to maintain the standards set in their win over Munster to avoid slipping up against Benetton in Treviso.

     

  • Connacht's Bundee Aki is a doubt for the visit of Munster in the Guinness Pro14 on Saturday.

    The Ireland centre picked up a knock in last weekend's victory over Ulster and might not be risked this week.

    Winger Matt Healy is in contention to return for the Westerners but full-back Tiernan O'Halloran remains sidelined.

  • Eight Irish players will travel with a 37-man British and Irish Lions squad to South Africa this summer.

    Jack Conan and Bundee Aki are two unexpected inclusions while Leinster duo Johnny Sexton and James Ryan have been left out.

    Joining Conan in the 21 forwards are Tadhg Beirne, Tadhg Furlong, Iain Henderson and Andrew Porter.

    Included with Aki in the 16 backs are his Ireland centre partner Robbie Henshaw and scrum-half Conor Murray who will be on his third Lions tour.

  • The British and Irish Lions have beaten the Sharks 54-points-to-7 in Johannesburg.

    Connacht's Bundee Aki went over the line for Warren Gatland's side in the first-half while Josh Adams and Duhan van der Merwe both finished with a hat-trick of tries.

    Meanwhile, the Irish Under 20's beat Italy 30-points-to-23 in their penultimate Guinness Six Nations game in Cardiff this afternoon.

    Richie Murphy's side take on France in the final game on Tuesday.

  • Head coach Andy Farrell says Ross Byrne deserves his start at out-half against England.

    He replaces the injured Jonathan Sexton for the Autumn Nations Cup game at Twickenham on Saturday.

    Connacht's Bundee Aki comes in for Robbie Henshaw in the centre, while Keith Earls replaces Andrew Conway on the wing.

    CJ Stander replaces Josh van der Flier in the only change to the pack.

    Jacob Stockdale and Iain Henderson are both among the replacements.

  • Ireland head coach Andy Farrell has named his side to face England in their final Guinness Six Nations game at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday.

    There are a number of changes to the starting 15 that lined out against Scotland last weekend.

    Garry Ringrose is ruled out through injury so Bundee Aki slots in at inside centre with Robbie Henshaw shifting to No.13.

    Jacob Stockdale returns to the team for the first time this year and is named on the left wing with Keith Earls on and Hugo Keenan completing the back three.

    In the front row, Dave Kilcoyne starts at loosehead alongside Rob Herring at hooker and Tadhg Furlong at tighthead.  

    Tadhg Beirne moves into lock to partner Iain Henderson in the absence of the injured James Ryan.

    Will Connors was ruled out yesterday with a knee injury in training so Josh van der Flier comes in at openside.

    CJ Stander moves to 6 for his final Ireland game in Aviva Stadium and Jack Conan is named at No.8.

  • By John Fallon

     

    Bundee Aki couldn’t bear to look as the Lions squad was announced so he left his Connacht teammates watching it on television and went outside at the Sportsground to cast his eye over the academy players training. He knew he was in contention, he just didn’t dare to dream and he didn’t know exactly how close he was to joining that small band who have played Super Rugby and also been selected for the Lions.

    The academy players did enough to distract him but then all hell broke loose. “I just heard this massive roar from the changing room. I was like, what’s going on here? Then all the lads and coaches ran out. I was in shock, I didn’t know what to do, I didn’t know what to say. I turned around, I said I got leave, I got to go home. The academy lads and coaches didn’t know what was going on. I had to leave, I said thanks to them.”

    He rang his wife Kayla and she was in tears as well. Phone calls were made to New Zealand, messages of congratulations came flying in from all over the world as he drove home. “We were shedding tears on the phone, when I got home we shed more tears. Told my parents, same thing. To look back at the time I left New Zealand, to now. It’s been great. It’s such an honour to be able to represent the British & Irish Lions.”
    One man who wasn’t the least surprised to hear Aki’s name being called out was Robbie Henshaw, his old Connacht, current Irish and hopefully future Lions centre partner.
    “No, not all, I wasn’t the least surprised. From the last game he played against England he had a stormer. Definitely, when he gets a run of games that’s when he hits form. From what he has done previously, no surprise in my eyes,” said Henshaw, speaking at an Intersport Elverys and Canterbury event announcing details of a competition for young fans to train with Aki and Henshaw.

    Their Lions selection is the latest chapter in their shared journey. Henshaw is three years younger and having made his Connacht debut at 19, just three months after leaving Marist College in Athlone, he had two full seasons under his belt and was an international when Aki arrived at the Sportsground in autumn 2014.

    By the time Aki became eligible and made his Irish debut against South Africa in November 2017, Henshaw was a seasoned international who had returned from the Lions tour to New Zealand.

    There was never much doubt about Henshaw making this Lions squad but Aki’s hopes seem to fade when a couple of niggling injuries limited game-time with Connacht during the winter and then he was out of favour with Six Nations selection before finally getting the nod against England when Garry Ringrose picked up an ankle injury.

    That paved the way for his 31st Irish appearance, all of which he has started and 15 of them with Henshaw, but his red card for a high hit on Billy Vunipola hardly did his Lions hopes much good, not least as he has had no relationship with Warren Gatland up to this.

    “I only met him once or twice,’ said Aki. “That time they beat us in the Millennium Stadium when he was coaching Wales. I only said hello to him then. Then the second time was when he came to training the week of the England game. Just said hello to him. I haven’t had him as a coach. He spoke to us briefly after the training session, that was it really,” said the 31-year old.

    Aki has no qualms about the red card that day when he became the first Irish player to be sent off twice in an international. “It is part of the law, I am not going to argue with who made the decision. It was the right decision at the time looking back at it. It is the law in the game we have to live by and change the way we play rugby anyway.”

    Henshaw was one of the first to congratulate him on his Lions selection and welcome him on board. They had hit it off from the moment Aki arrived in Galway, off the pitch every bit as much as on it.

    “That was one of the things Bundee brought, just how important relationships on and off the pitch are key, particularly in close positions, to make sure that myself and himself were always staying in touch about rugby and also having an off switch. It wasn’t just about rugby. We were able to chill out and play PlayStation, just do things outside of rugby.”

    “I had to watch him play the squeeze-box,” said Aki. “I didn’t realise how talented he was in music.” Henshaw spared Aki having to learn the accordion that he had been playing tunes on since his grandfather began teaching him when he was six, but he has encouraged Aki on the guitar.

    Both have played just once in South Africa, Henshaw on the Irish tour in 2016 and Aki a few years earlier with the Chiefs when they played Super Rugby against the Kings and the Stormers and both are looking forward to going back.

    The Springboks haven’t played since beating England in the World Cup final but Henshaw doesn’t think that will have an impact.

    “I don’t think so. All of their players have been playing whether it is in Europe, Japan or in South Africa. They have all been playing throughout the year. They will be fresher. I don’t know how many games they have played but they will be good. They will have a spring in their step. They will be fresh. And they will have a good training camp under their belts. They will be well up for it,” he added.

  • A last-minute try from Bundee Aki has stretched Connacht’s winning run in the Pro 14 to three matches.

    The Ireland centre crossed the whitewash to give Andy Friend’s side a 19-17 victory away to Benetton.

    The win cements Connacht’s second-placed spot in Conference B.