Ireland international Bundee Aki has laid to rest weeks of speculation that he may be moving abroad by signing a three-year deal with Connacht and the Irish Rugby Football Union.

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The centre has been embroiled in rumours ever since Ireland crashed out of the Rugby World Cup, and with the prospect of more lucrative contracts in France and Japan, fears mounted that the 29-year-old would wave goodbye to his international career.

Connacht head coach Andy Friend had given some positive signs recently that a new deal had been worked out, and now it has been confirmed that Aki will remain in Ireland until the end of the 2022/23 season, the same year as the next RWC.

Aki took to Instagram soon after the deal was announced to say it was “never in doubt where I wanted to be.”

He is a firm favourite at the Sportsground in Connacht, and indeed amongst all Ireland fans, and said: “I am truly grateful for the opportunity I have been given to represent both Connacht and Irish and am delighted to extend my IRFU contract excited.

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The New Zealand-born inside centre qualified for Ireland on residency in 2017 having moved to Connacht in 2014 from the Chiefs. He made his international debut soon after in the Autumn and since became a mainstay in Joe Schmidt’s Ireland team.

The Connacht man was a key member of the Ireland team that won the Grand Slam in 2018, won a series in Australia and beat the All Blacks later that year, and also said “From the start of my Debut in the Irish jersey me and my family have had great support.”

Seeing as his Test career has been so short so far, it would have been disappointing had he moved on, although it might have been financially in his interest. However, he, and surely all Ireland players, is “excited about our next challenge” after a poor RWC, as he has clearly set his sights on retaining the twelve shirt under new coach Andy Farrell.

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