Cian Healy has praised Bundee Aki’s resilience in the face of a tournament-ending suspension after the centre gave his all in Ireland’s first training session for Saturday’s World Cup quarter-final against New Zealand.
Aki received the three-week ban at a World Rugby disciplinary hearing in Tokyo on Monday for his high tackle on Samoa fly-half Ulupano Seuteni which earned the inside centre a red card in last Saturday’s Pool A game.
The IRFU will consider appealing the decision by an independent judiciary committee once they have received the full written decision from the hearing, with a 48-hour window to lodge an appeal from that point.
In the meantime, though, loosehead prop Healy has been impressed with the way the Connacht star has continued to give his all for Ireland’s cause.
“Bundee showed he’s a squad man and trained well today,” Healy said, “he put everyone under pressure and kept working towards the greater good of the team. That’s what you want from a scenario like that, he’s not sitting in his room with his head between his hands, he’s working hard for the team to go forward.
It’s tough for him and we felt for him. He’s a good player and adds a lot to the team but anyone else who is ready to step in is equally as good. We’ve got a great squad at the moment and we’re very confident in everyone else.
Assistant coach Simon Easterby said Auckland-born Aki would still have a major role in helping the team prepare for the challenge of taking on the defending champions New Zealand this Saturday. “He’ll be fully focused on trying to prepare the lads in the best way possible... there’s no better man for knowing how the Kiwis work and how they might be approaching this,” Easterby said of the former Chiefs star.
Easterby said Ireland would continue to plan without Aki for Saturday’s last-eight showdown and expressed his relief that Ireland were well-stocked with fit centres at last following Robbie Henshaw’s comeback from a hamstring injury on Saturday against Samoa.
“I guess in terms of a decision to select two guys in midfield this week, with Bundee currently out of the equation it means that Robbie coming back to fitness was great timing. Garry (Ringrose) and Chris Farrell, neither of those two played. so they will be fresh as well”
Easterby also welcomed the appointment of Nigel Owens as referee for Saturday’s game at Tokyo Stadium after World Rugby revealed their quarter-finals roster for all four of this weekend’s matches.
“I think it’s a good appointment, I think we’re familiar with him, so are the All Blacks,” he said of the Welsh official.
“He does a lot of Rugby Championship games, he gets a lot of coverage there so I think he’s good, a good appointment, and both camps will be pretty happy to see Nigel out in the middle. He’’ll allow the game to flow but will also be across all the set-piece work and I think he’ll be a good man to have in the middle.”
Jerome Garces will take charge of England v Australia in Oita on Saturday with Sunday’s quarter-final between Wales and France taken by Jaco Peyper with Wayne Barnes on the whistle for Japan v South Africa.