Bundee Aki could "transform Irish rugby" when he qualifies

With Connacht's fairy tale set to continue against Leinster, Donal Lenihan believes one of their standout players could have an impact for Ireland

BY Adrian Collins 09:23 Tuesday 24 May 2016, 9:23 24 May 2016

Image: ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

There are any number of great stories coming out of the Connacht set up, as their mix of exciting young players and experienced veterans look to cap an incredible season with a win against Leinster in the Pro 12 final. 

Stories like that of John Muldoon, who will look to add a trophy to his collection after a 12-year career with the team, or the journeys of Niyi Adeolokun and Matt Healy to the first team squad after rejections from other provinces, grab the imagination and make Connacht's path to the final a unique one. 

For Donal Lenihan and Eddie O'Sullivan however, the player that came in for particular praise was Bundee Aki, with the star recovering from injury (and recovering stolen laptops) in time to put in a man of the match performance against Glasgow, adding to his cult status. 

Speaking on RTÉ's Against the Head, O'Sullivan said that he has been one of the driving forces behind their rise this season: "He's certainly a huge figure on the team, obviously as a player, but culturally as well. He’s the fulcrum of the team culture. He's bought into the culture, he's bought into being in Galway, he's part of it."

Noting that Aki would be eligible for Ireland selection in 2017, Lenihan stated that he could have a huge impact on the team: "I'm not a fan of the three-year residency rule, but he could transform Irish rugby," said Lenihan. "He could bring us to the next level. Could you imagine him outside Johnny Sexton?".

Noting that the scenes after the game were reminiscent of an All-Ireland final, Lenhian said that there should be no problem in getting the players back up for the game against Leinster: "They're energised by the buzz of the whole thing. People say, 'will they be able to get for next Saturday?' That's not a problem. The problem is how you can tie them down?".

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