Connacht without Bundee Aki as they look to keep up URC winning run against Leinster

Andy Friend’s side looking to repeat last season's success at the RDS on Friday night

Bundee Aki has been ruled out of Connacht’s trip to the RDS to play Connacht on Friay night. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Bundee Aki has been ruled out of Connacht’s trip to the RDS to play Connacht on Friay night. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

 

Bundee Aki remains sidelined and will be missing from the Connacht side for Friday evening’s meeting with Leinster in the RDS.

The Ireland and Lions centre has been out of the action since picking up a knee injury during the November series against the All Blacks, and Connacht’s attack coach Pete Wilkins says he is still “rehabbing a few of bumps” from that Irish campaign.

However, lock Cian Prendergast, who has recovered from an ankle sprain, is “another exciting option” for Connacht’s visit to Dublin.

After posting back-to-back URC wins over Ulster and Ospreys, Wilkins says it is crucial Connacht back it up again, knowing Leinster will be smarting from their unexpected defeat to Ulster.

“Everyone talks about the wounded animal and coming back at you the following week. You could look at it that way, but it also increases the challenge for us. Leinster will be more determined to get a result – that said, it shows they can be wounded.

“It reassures other teams they are beatable, and if you play well and apply yourself to your game and impose yourself on their game, you can get a result.”

Add in Connacht’s victory at the RDS last season, and Wilkins says it is all about a mindset and belief that the champions are beatable.

That 35-24 win – a first in Dublin since September 2002 – gave Connacht a belief that “it was possible” with largely the same group of players this year,.

“It was massive for us, particularly going away from home. That said, historically for us it has not been performances in interprovincials that have been our biggest challenge, it has been about consistency – beating an Ospreys team between interprovincials or fronting up and going away to the Dragons, Cardiff, or Edinburgh. So it was something we were proud of, but it wasn’t our greatest challenge in terms of the growth of this team.

That challenge, he says, is to continue delivering “passionate emotional performances” while also ticking all the boxes between the interpros – such as last week’s victory over the Ospreys, and the need to keep building on it, particularly having also taken Ulster’s scalp at the Aviva.

“We will have to play better this week. We have to back it up. It’s the old cliche, but you ‘re only as good as the last game, and certainly we know externally we will be judged on that, but internally is all that matters to us.

“When when we get to the Monday review, it’s no good talking about Ulster and Ospreys, it’s all about what we put on the park against Leinster. That is an enormous motivation for us, and also a great challenge.”

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