Connacht coach Kieran Keane says recent Ireland debutant Bundee Aki could be held in reserve over the coming weeks despite an impressive November campaign for Joe Schmidt’s side.
The 27-year-old centre played all 80 minutes in Ireland’s victories over South Africa, and Argentina and Keane admitted to being thrilled with the form of the former PRO12 Player of the Year.
But with a key Challenge Cup double-header with Brive looming next month Keane revealed that Aki will miss this weekend’s trip to Zebre, although fellow internationals Ultan Dillane and Kieran Marmion are both in the reckoning.
“Ultan and Kieran are going to be available and we are going to rest Bundee,” said Keane.
“We have to manage their minutes, we are going to have to shuffle the deck a little bit. We are going to bring the other two into contention and give Bundee a little bit of a break. It’s a moving piece whether he will be back for the European games. I couldn’t answer yes or no. But the November Series was wonderful for him, he had a great introduction to it. There was a lot of press around the pros and the cons but personally I was rapt for him. He did really well.
“Having the three (international) faces back, it’s brilliant.
“They lift the whole group. They are fine young men all three of them, and hopefully, we can make one or two more internationals.”
Connacht will be without their midfield talisman for the trip to Parma, but Peter Robb (hip) and Stacey Ili (shoulder) have both returned to add to their midfield options. New recruit Pita Ahki came on as a replacement in the defeat to Cardiff Blues last weekend, and Keane was pleased with that debut appearance
“Pita didn’t get a lot of time against Cardiff but he made the block-busting run which he is capable of,” said Keane. “He is a delightful young man and he will go from strength and strength in time.”
Flanker Jarrad Butler (knee) is making steady progress from the injury he picked up against Munster and could be fit for Europe, but outgoing openside Jake Heenan is awaiting the results of a scan on his shoulder after he succumbed to injury in Cardiff.
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