BUNDEE AKI has signed a new IRFU contract to keep him in Connacht until the end of next season.
Aki, 33, arrived in the province in 2014 and made his Ireland debut three years later after qualifying for residency.
In 2021, he became only the fourth Connacht player to represent the Lions and while he is not always a guaranteed starter for Ireland, he was one of their best players at the recent World Cup.
David Nucifora, IRFU High Performance Director, said: “The IRFU is committed to developing and retaining high quality players.
“We are delighted that Bundee has agreed to this contract extension so soon after a number of impressive performances from Ireland at the Rugby World Cup.”
“Bundee is a hugely popular player who has contributed enormously to both Connacht and Irish rugby over a long period of time and we are all thrilled that he has committed to this contract extension.”
The center scored his third try for Ireland in their quarter-final defeat to his native New Zealand and was nominated for World Rugby Player of the Year.
Aki said: “Playing in Ireland means a lot to me and I am delighted to sign a contract extension with the IRFU and Connacht.
“Since I moved to Galway nine years ago, Ireland has become a second home and I am incredibly grateful to my coaches, teammates and fans for the warm welcome they have given my family and me here.
“We have made great friendships and incredible memories together and I am excited about the talent that is emerging across the country.
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“I believe there are more great days ahead in the countryside of Connacht and Ireland and I am extremely excited about the future.”
Aki helped Connacht win the PRO12 title in 2016 – their only major title in the professional era.
But head coach Pete Wilkins added: “Bundee’s commitment to Connacht reflects not only the passion he has for this province, but also the belief he has in this club.”
“We look forward to welcoming him back after his much-needed break.
“And I have no doubt that every Connacht fan will show him how much he means to all of us the next time he runs around the sports field.”