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Aki driven by 'unfinished business' following World Cup disaster

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Robbie Henshaw and Bundee Aki during Ireland training at The Campus in Quinta da Lago, Portugal

Robbie Henshaw and Bundee Aki during Ireland training at The Campus in Quinta da Lago, Portugal

SPORTSFILE

Robbie Henshaw and Bundee Aki during Ireland training at The Campus in Quinta da Lago, Portugal

Players often express a wish to leave the jersey in a better place following their time occupying it, so when their last outing ends in ignominy there's a burning desire to get back on the field and right some wrongs.

Bundee Aki's last act in an Ireland shirt was a distraught march to the sideline as he contemplated the red card shown to him by referee Nic Berry. His high hit on Samoa's Ulupano Seuteni was unintentional, but reckless and, under the letter of the law, he had to go.

The World Cup he had targeted since the day he decided to leave New Zealand for Connacht was over and he'd watch the quarter-final defeat to the All Blacks from the stands in Tokyo.

Four months on from Fukuoka, he gets the chance to represent his adopted nation once more when Scotland visit the Aviva Stadium on Saturday.

In the interim, he has committed his future to Ireland by becoming Connacht's first centrally contracted player and, while he's not shouting his new goals from the roof-tops, the 29-year-old has big ambitions for the next couple of seasons.

GOALS

"I have unfinished business here and I'm just going to keep going until I make sure that business is done, regardless of what is - I am going to try and keep those close to myself, but I have goals here and it is making sure I adhere to those goals," Aki said.

"The good thing about the Six Nations is that it is a competitive competition and there is no better way to start to play against a competitive team, Scotland, and there is a lot of anxious boys who want to get back out on that field and play.

"We just got to keep focus on ourselves and make sure we play to how we know we can play and play to our best strength and the best of our ability.

"Whenever you put on that green jersey it is special. I haven't put on that jersey since the last time at the World Cup and we'll see what happens. This week, I'll be doing every thing I can to help out this team and trying to play very well.

"I never want to step on that field to lose, never ever, never will, want to play the best I can, put my best foot forward and my heart on my sleeve."

Ireland, Aki says, can overcome their World Cup disappointment in the next eight weeks by making a real mark on this Six Nations.

"There is a lot to achieve to be honest, there is a lot of standards that need to be met and we obviously need to focus on our stuff and make a big statement this week," he said.

"It is against a quality side who has a lot of pressure across the park and yeah we've just got to make sure we are on the money."

UP IN SMOKE

Nothing less will do for a player determined to eradicate the bad memory of that Fukuoka night when his World Cup ambition went up in smoke.

"It does, it does linger for a while," Aki said of his red card.

"I have that in the back of my head, knowing what happened in the past, knowing that it's going to sit with you for a while but still be able to focus on the next week or the next moment because you can't let that affect the way you play, and keep affecting the way you play.

"You still have to play the game you want to play and still play as hard as you can, as best as you can and you're going to do that knowing that there were things that you weren't satisfied with in the previous few games.

"You always want to try to rectify yourself. You always want to play a lot better than the last time you played.

"Everyone around me, my family, realised how disappointed I was finishing the World Cup the way it ended, but you can't do anything at that time.

"Decisions were made and the only way to deal with it was to play rugby again, try and play rugby the way you do best and you obviously try not to think about that tackle, and try not to think about not making it happen again.

"You just want to try and enjoy rugby and go back to the basics because that's what it is.

"I get a chance now to put the jersey back on and make everyone proud again, and hopefully I'll play in the jersey with a lot of pride."

That's always been what he's brought to the table over the course of his 23 caps so far and the Auckland native is determined that the red card won't be his Ireland legacy.