Ireland Rugby World Cup star to hand Connacht boost ahead of Champions Cup opener

David Skippers
Bundee Aki in action for Connacht.

Bundee Aki in action for Connacht.

Connacht will receive a boost ahead of their Champions Cup opener against Bordeaux-Begles on Friday after it was revealed that star centre Bundee Aki will be in the selection mix for the highly anticipated encounter at the Sportsground.

The 2023 World Rugby Player of the Year nominee has not been in action since Ireland’s Rugby World Cup quarter-final defeat to New Zealand in France nearly two months ago.

The 33-year-old has overcome a hamstring injury and is set to be included in Connacht’s matchday squad against the French outfit.

‘Good to go’

“Bundee is available and he’s good to go, which is great news for us and great news for him,” Connacht head coach Pete Wilkins told RTÉ Sport. “That hamstring wasn’t an acute injury that had caused any issues but it was something that had lingered for him.

“It had been managed really well during that World Cup period and we just wanted to use this window to get it right for him.

“So he’s worked really hard on it, probably ahead of schedule in terms of the hard work he’s put in and the support he’s had around him from the medical staff.

“[We’re] really pleased with how he’s tracked and he’ll be in the mix this week.”

Aki was Ireland‘s best performer at the World Cup as he was named player of the match against Tonga and South Africa while also scoring five tries in as many games.

Wilkins believes it’s been difficult for the centre to settle in since the end of the World Cup.

“He’s probably in that strange place that some of the Irish players have found themselves inhabiting,” he said. “In the sense that’s he full of confidence and delighted on a personal level with the form he’s shown but still absolutely devastated in terms of the final outcome for the team and their progression in the World Cup.

Over World Cup disappointment

“He’s dealt with that disappointment.

“I don’t think it will ever leave him or them but he’s channelled it into doing his rehab really well, getting himself physically good to go and then we’ll channel it into his performances for us.

“There are matches for him here and matches on the horizon for Ireland when the time comes. But he’s in a good space mentally and we’re really excited about having him back.”

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