Bundee Aki has signed a new deal with Connacht that will keep him at the Sportsground until at least the end of the 2022/23 season. The news was jointly released by the IRFU and Connacht Rugby this afternoon. He becomes the first Connacht player to be signed to a central contract.
Commenting on his new deal, Bundee stated “I am grateful for the opportunity i have been given to represent both Connacht and Ireland and am delighted to extend my IRFU contract. The whole of Connacht have been incredibly supportive of both me and my family and the Ireland supporters have been fantastic from the very first day I was selected for the national squad. Connacht has become home to me and my family and i want to play my part in helping Connacht achieve their ambitious plans in the years to come.”
The Irish International joined the province from the Hamilton-based super rugby side the Chiefs in 2014. He signed initially on a three-year deal and this was renewed in 2017 when he became eligible to play for Ireland under the residency laws.
He was a pivotal part of the team that won the Pro12 trophy in the 2015/16 season. Aki is well on his way to a century of appearances for Connacht. Tomorrow’s game against the Southern Kings is set to be his 93rd cap for the westerners.
The announcement continues a busy month on the contracts front for Connacht CEO Willie Ruane. Bundee’s new contract follows on from the contract renewals of Kieran Marmion, Tiernan O’Halloran, Sean O’Brien, Tom Farrell and Jarrad Butler earlier this month. The fact that he is now a centrally contracted player should free up funds for further possible signing for Andy Friend’s already stretched squad.
Ruane said “Connacht Rugby is delighted that Bundee has extended his contract to 2023. This is the third time that Bundee has committed to Connacht Rugby which reflects not only his belief in what we are doing but also our commitment in supporting him to achieve for both Connacht and Ireland.”
From an IRFU perspective, the signing is also great news as there had been media speculation about a possible big-money move to France. Aki debuted for Ireland just after his last contract renewal in 2017 and went on to play in all five of Ireland’s games in their 2018 Grand Slam success. He also featured in the November ’18 victory over the All-Black’s at Lansdowne road.
David Nucifora, speaking on behalf of the IRFU said: “Bundee has added significant value to both the Ireland and Connacht environments. He has performed at a consistently high level, is a leader and has a positive impact on younger players around him with his insight and the professionalism and diligence of his preparation. We are delighted that he will continue to play a positive role in Irish rugby for years to come.”