Bundee Aki decides his playing future
NEWS: Bundee Aki, whose performances for Ireland in achieving the Six Nations Grand Slam and at the World Cup have earned him a nomination for World Player of the Year, extended his contract with the IRFU to 2025 on Friday.
The 33-year-old centre was arguably Ireland’s best player at the World Cup in France which ended with the Irish coming within a score of their first appearance in a semifinal when they suffered a 24-28 defeat to New Zealand in a thrilling match.
The New Zealand-born Connacht back more than made up for his miserable 2019 World Cup when he was sent off against Samoa and missed the 14-46 thrashing by the All Blacks in the quarterfinals.
“Playing in Ireland means the world to me and I am delighted to sign a contract extension with the IRFU and Connacht,” Aki said in an Irish Rugby Football Union statement.
“Since moving to Galway nine years ago, Ireland has become a home from home and I am incredibly grateful to my coaches, teammates and supporters for making my family and I so welcome here.”
Aki’s signing of the extension will be welcome news for head coach Andy Farrell who has already lost two Test centurions to retirement in talisman Johnny Sexton and utility back Keith Earls.
Aki, who has been capped 53 times since making his debut in 2017, said he was enthusiastic about carrying on because the young stars set to break through offered hope that the success under Farrell will continue.
“We’ve made great friends and incredible memories together and I am excited about the talent that is coming through across the country,” he said.
“I believe that there are more great days to come in the green of Connacht and Ireland and I am hugely excited about what the future holds.”
David Nucifora, IRFU High Performance Director, was ecstatic that Aki had signed the extension.
“We are delighted that Bundee has agreed this contract extension, coming so soon after a string of impressive displays for Ireland at the World Cup,” said the Australian, who is due to step down from his post after the Olympics next year.
“Bundee is a hugely popular player who has given an enormous amount to both Connacht and Irish rugby over a long period of time and we are all thrilled he has committed to this contract extension.”
Aki’s next Test for Ireland should come in the mouth-watering Six Nations opener against the 2022 Grand Slam champions France in Marseille on February 2.