Connacht’s hopes of getting their European Challenge Cup campaign back on track have been boosted by confirmation that Bundee Aki will be available to play when Perpignan visit the Sportsground on Saturday.
The Irish international is due to head to New Zealand for his wedding but Connacht coach Andy Friend revealed yesterday that Aki will be available for the weekend’s must-win clash.
“He has got his wedding coming up. He wants to contribute and put in so there is every chance we will look to get him out this weekend,” said Friend.
The Connacht coach confirmed that Irish scrum-half Kieran Marmion has undergone surgery on his ankle injury and is out of action until February.
And winger Niyi Adeolokun could also be set for a lengthy spell on the sideline after picking up an arm injury on the tour to South Africa. He is awaiting results of a scan to establish the severity of the issue.
Connacht need to pick up wins against bottom of the table Perpignan over the next two weekends to get their Challenge Cup campaign back on track.
They beat Bordeaux-Begles in their opening match but lost away to Sale Sharks and are currently six points adrift of Steve Diamond’s men in the table. But Friend said confidence is high after a successful tour which saw then secure wins over the Southern Kings and the Cheetahs and he hopes to continue that good form into the European campaign.
“We will know more after these next two weeks. We want to win these next two games. That gives us the opportunity then to take stock and see what we want to do. We want to keep winning and that’s why we are here. I see it as more of an opportunity to give players who didn’t come away with us on the trip to South Africa (Finlay Bealham, Quinn Roux and Bundee Aki didn’t tour).
“We are starting to build some real depth there. We haven’t used them over the last few weeks but the team keeps winning. That’s what you want, in a quality side you want that competition between players. You want blokes who know they need to keep performing to get that jersey and we are starting to get to that place which is good,” said the Australian, who has turned Connacht’s fortunes around since replacing Kieran Keane.
Paddy Jackson’s Perpignan will come to the Sportsground having lost all 11 Top 14 games and their only respite in a wretched season was a draw away to Bordeaux-Begles in the Challenge Cup.