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New Connacht Centre Bundee Aki Has Ireland Jersey In His Sights

New Connacht Centre Bundee Aki Has Ireland Jersey In His Sights
By Paul O'Hara
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Chiefs centre Bundee Aki will join Connacht at the end of the season, and has said that a international rugby for Ireland is a motivating factor behind the move.

Aki has been on the All Blacks' radar and is also eligible for Samoa, but the 24-year-old has decided to uproot his family and move to Galway to join Pat Lam's setup. He is no stranger to rugby adversity, having quit the game for a period to work in a bank in order to support his partner and two young children.

The return of Sonny Bill Williams to the Chiefs was a factor in Aki's departure, but guaranteeing financial security for himself and his family is the priority. He will become eligible for Ireland after three years under the residency rule, and will hope to be received favourably by Ireland's Kiwi coaching team of Joe Schmidt and John Plumtree.

"It was a really tough decision.

"It's a long commitment. I put a lot of thought into it, looking at my options in terms of international rugby," Aki told Fairfax Media in New Zealand.

"Obviously the All Blacks have got their midfielders and with Sonny coming back, it's a not a bad thing for me to go. Hopefully, if I do the hard yards over there, good things will come."

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"Family is everything for me," he said. Aki understands that playing international rugby for Ireland is by no means a certainty, but is determined to make a solid case for himself.

"That's a big part of my decision to move," he said. "Hopefully when the time is right and if I'm playing good footy, hopefully I can play for the Ireland international team.

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"I've got to play well before that though. I'm eligible for Samoa.

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"That was another big decision for myself – to see if I would play for them or not. If I play three years over there and it doesn't go well, I can always go back to Samoa.

"They are a good international team as well but I'm just trying to look after my family and myself."

Aki spoke with former Chiefs and Connacht captain, the unfortunate Craig Clarke, when considering his decision. Along with Clarke, Aki will join up with fellow Sportsground Kiwis Rodney Ah You and Nathan White.

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Aki started 12 games in his debut Super Rugby season last year, and also lined out for Counties Manukau in the Ranfurly Shield.

What do you think of this decision? It's a similar case to that of Ulster's Jared Payne, who moved from New Zealand to Ireland at the peak of his career?

Here's Aki in action. If we learn one thing this from this clip, it's that he loves a ridiculous hand gesture.

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wjuWhC8LRs8

 

[Stuff.co.nz]

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