Ireland midfielder Bundee Aki maintains a Kiwi presence in the British & Irish Lions squad.
New Zealander Bundee Aki – back in rugby after a four-week ban – has revealed how he shed tears of joy at being named in the British and Irish Lions.
The 31-year-old former Chiefs midfielder will tour South Africa with the Lions next month after qualifying to play for Ireland in 2017.
Highlanders attack coach and former British and Irish Lion Riki Flutey praises Bundee Aki after his selection in Lions squad to face South Africa.
Aki, who has 31 test caps, was back in the Connacht starting lineup for a 20-12 loss to Kieran Crowley’s Benetton Treviso team in the PRO14 Rainbow Cup competition on Saturday (Sunday NZ time).
Before leaving for Treviso, Aki took part in a Lions jersey promotion with Ireland and Lions midfield partner Robbie Henshaw.
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Aki told Irish journalist John Fallon that he was in Connacht’s Galway gym at the time the Lions team was announced and “just heard this massive roar from the changing room . . . then all the lads and coaches ran out”.
Aki said he was “in shock’’, but later rang his wife, Kayla.
“We were shedding tears on the phone, when I got home we shed more tears. When I told my parents, the same thing. To look back at the time I left New Zealand, to now. It’s been great. It’s such an honour to be able to represent the Lions.”
Aki has played for Connacht since 2014 after leaving the Chiefs and Counties Manukau.
He was suspended for four matches after being sent off for a head-high tackle in a Six Nations game against England in March.
The adopted Irishman told Fallon, at an Intersport Elverys and Canterbury event announcing details of a competition for young fans to train with Aki and Henshaw, that he had no complains about the red card.
“It was the right decision at the time looking back at it. It is the law in the game we have to live by and change the way we play rugby anyway.”
Meanwhile, Aki’s Kiwi compatriot and Connacht teammate Abraham Papali’i was red carded in the loss to Benetton.
The former Bay of Plenty No 8 came off the bench in the 62nd minute but was sent off 12 minutes later for a shoulder to the head of a Benetton opponent.
The victory clinched Benetton a place in the Rainbow Cup final, which will be held in Treviso on June 19.
That game will be Crowley’s last in charge of the northern Italy club before the former All Blacks fullback takes over as head coach of the Italy national team.