herald

Thursday 13 December 2018

Bundee jumping the queue for Ireland now

Bundee Aki
Bundee Aki

Connacht go as Bundee Aki goes; there is no more important player to any club in the Guiness PRO14 than the Ireland centre.

Coach Andy Friend revealed how the theme of the week was to be relentless against the Scarlets on Saturday in a game they won 33-20.

"Bundee was unrelenting in the way he continued to put the opposition under pressure with and without the football. That gives the rest of the boys massive confidence," he said.

It also puts Leinster's Robbie Henshaw and Garry Ringrose on notice for Ireland's November series.

There can be no one more motivated to meet the All Blacks than the Auckland-born New Zealander.

The statistics from the win over Scarlets tell some of the story, but not all of it.

The 17 carries, two clean breaks, eight defenders beaten and two offloads, the first of which created Tom Farrell's try, reflected Connacht's dominance of the ball (68pc-32pc) and territory (74pc-26pc).

It wasn't the number of tackles, more the emphatic nature of them that had Scarlets and The Sportsground rocking, for very different reasons.

"He puts the fear of god in the opposition," said coach Andy Friend.

"He's a baller, that boy. I reckon their 10 (Rhys Patchell) didn't want to see another sight of Bundee Aki, which is good."

Friend can feel pleased that Connacht have climbed to third in Conference A.

Glorious

They are four points off leaders Glasgow and one ahead of neighbours Munster.

Despite the glorious season of 2015-2016, the best Connacht can do, on a consistent basis, is to play entertaining rugby and shoot for the play-offs.

The state of affairs for Munster is far more dubious.

Coach Johann van Graan covered up his disgust at how they were dominated 37-13 by Cardiff Blues on Friday.

These are worrying times down south at a point in Munster's development when they have a stronger squad on paper.

Munster will have to bring their A-game against Ulster at Thomond Park on Saturday evening (KO 7.35pm) or face the wrath of those in the stands and the Northern Province will be in no mood to roll over.

They have already made a habit out of winning or drawing, like they did in the 39-all shootout against Cheetahs on Friday, games they could have lost.

Coach Dan McFarland waited long enough for his chance to become a head coach and is confident he can get his men to the next level.

"In the Scarlets game, the Edinburgh game and this game, we've had to come from behind on multiple occasions and we've done that," he said.

"We're still growing. I don't think we're close to being as good as we can be. The pressure is to keep on them, on us, to keep getting better. I think we're certainly making progress."

Munster will find out just how much in Limerick.

Promoted articles

Entertainment News