Bundee Aki has no Ireland plans for now

Centre wants to concentrate on Connacht’s end of season

Bundee Aki is not making any decision on his international plans at the moment. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Bundee Aki is not making any decision on his international plans at the moment. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

 

Bundee Aki has refused to declare for Ireland despite the fact he qualifies, via residency, ahead of the November internationals.

Aki has long expressed a desire to play international rugby but the 27-year-old also qualifies for Samoa, via parentage, and the All Blacks as he was born in Auckland.

“You’re right, I do want to play at the highest level, which is international rugby, but I need to focus on Connacht,” said Aki at a Kinetica sponsor launch on Wednesday. “I can’t think ahead of myself.

“Ireland have quality players. Jeez, they have a lot of good players there. I can’t parachute my way in there. I got to just put my head down and do what I want to do, perform week in week out, perform consistently. When the time arises it arises, but for the moment my focus is just Connacht.”

Aki recently signed a contract extension with Connacht, which rules him out of All Black contention as their selection policy requires all players to be playing in New Zealand, and he has met with Ireland coach Joe Schmidt.

His outstanding form during last season’s Pro 12 championship winning run would indicate an immediate call-up to the Ireland squad despite the presence of Jared Payne and established Leinster centre pairing of Robbie Henshaw and Garry Ringrose.

That currently leaves him with a straight decision between Ireland and Samoa, which would alert French and English clubs of his possible availability. When Aki re-signed for Connacht last year he stated that there had been better financial opportunities in other countries. He subsequently expressed disappointment on Twitter when Pat Lam’s announced he was leaving Galway next season for a lucrative coaching deal with Bristol.

“Jeez, I haven’t really thought about how I am going to make that decision,” said Aki.

“I have been asked that question a few times and I know people think I have been thinking about it but I really haven’t. I’ve only just come back from injury. All I want to do is keep my performance up to a high standard. That’s all I can do.”

Aki will get a sample of international rugby this summer as he has been included in Vern Cotter’s Barbarians squad to face England at Twickenham on May 28th and Ulster in Belfast on June 1st.

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