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Saturday 10 December 2016

Bundee Aki key to success for Connacht in clash with Ulster

Connacht's Bundee Aki
Connacht's Bundee Aki

Big-time rugby returns to The Sportsground tomorrow and the Sky Sports1 cameras will be there to prove the point as Connacht entertain their third province (kick-off 2.40pm).

While Pat Lam has to plan for a really testing run-in, three of the four remaining rounds will be played out at home.

The creation of the Champions Cup qualification system has already led to late season surprises. There is a twist or two left in the plot.

It must not be forgotten that Connacht have already beaten Leinster (10-9) and Munster (24-16) in Galway this season.

However, they have a disastrous history against Ulster, having won just one of their last 17.

It came way back in 2005 at this venue and it is about time they answered the call to arms. 

The main thrust of their confidence, even though they have lost their last three matches on two fronts, is likely to come from the reunion of Robbie Henshaw and Bundee Aki in the midfield.

Whatever about the underwhelming impact of Mils Muliaina, the purchase of Aki has given Henshaw a ready-made side-kick.

There are few more electric sights in the PRO12 than watching Aki in full flow and he hasn’t even had the fast track a man of his skills, pace and power is crying out for this weekend.  

Connacht have lost once at home in the League this season and it was to Edinburgh (16-13). For all their stellar pre-Christmas form, will that turn out to be the most telling result of all?

Ulster are two points out of first and that home route through the play-offs. Their fate is far from sealed. They have a lot of work to do too.

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