Connacht coach Pat Lam revealed it took some persuasion last week before Bundee Aki agreed to undergo surgery on a troublesome ankle injury.
Lam confirmed that Aki has a particularly high pain threshold and was keen to play on, but he finally relented when they presented him with the full facts.
“He would go out there on one leg,” said Lam about the PRO12 player of the season who will now be out of action until mid-February.
“It was once the feedback came back from the surgeons. They got the second opinion, but it’s been ongoing for Bundee. He just gets on with it. He could press on, but as soon as they came back that we run the risk of further damage, we all made the decision to get in there and get it done now.”
However, Lam said that even then Aki was determined to delay surgery and play on.
“We sat down and went through all the facts with him and explained it to them. He felt he didn’t want to let the team down, but we said: ‘Mate, you need to get it sorted, get in there and get it done.’
“He has an extremely high pain threshold. He would be right up there. He is tough.
“At the end of the day, it was his call. We had to put all the information down, we put it out there, and then he made the final call,” added Lam.
Aki heads the PRO12 carries chart in the half-term stats report compiled by Opta to reflect the best performers over the first 11 series of matches.
He has played in all bar one of Connacht’s games this season, but will now miss the PRO12 games against Munster and Ospreys and also the Champions Cup encounters against Zebre and Toulouse, when Connacht will bid to reach the quarter-finals for the first time.
Lam has an injury crisis on his hands, with over 20 players on the casualty list at the moment and the champions can’t afford to lose any more ground in the PRO12, sitting well outside the play-off and Champions Cup spots in eighth on the table.
Aki, who signed a three-year contract extension before Lam announced his departure for Bristol in the summer, will become Irish qualified later in 2017.
Teammate Tiernan O’Halloran was another recognised in the PRO12 half-term report, having gained most metres so far, in just seven carries less than Aki, who also featured in the offloads chart. Munster’s CJ Stander is also among the leading carriers, while Ulster’s Sean Reidy has made most tackles so far, with 133, six more than Munster’s Billy Holland.
Leinster’s Dan Leavy has pulled off most turnovers (13), while Munster’s Tyler Bleyendaal is just one behind Ospreys’ Sam Davies at the top of the try assists chart.
Glasgow Warriors’ Tommy Seymour is the leading try-scorer so far in the PRO12, while Rhys Patchell of Scarlets has scored most points.
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