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Bundee Aki on high alert for threat of Scotland ambush with 'freakish athlete'

By PA
Bundee aki of Ireland celebrates during the Rugby World Cup France 2023 match between South Africa and Ireland at Stade de France on September 23, 2023, in Saint-Denis near Paris, France. (Photo by Christian Liewig - Corbis/Getty Images)

In-form centre Bundee Aki knows Scotland pose a “massive threat” to Ireland’s Rugby World Cup aspirations due to his experiences with the British and Irish Lions.

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Connacht centre Aki has been one of the standout performers of the tournament so far and helped his side to the cusp of the quarter-finals with four tries across three successive Pool B wins.

Yet the world’s top-ranked nation could still suffer early elimination at the hands of the Scots on Saturday evening in Paris.

New Zealand-born Aki played alongside “freakish athlete” Duhan Van Der Merwe during the 2021 Lions tour of South Africa, in addition to the likes of fly-half Finn Russell and midfield rival Chris Harris.

Speaking of Edinburgh wing Van Der Merwe, he said: “He’s actually a good lad, I got along with Duhan very well.

“Obviously on the pitch he’s a freakish athlete. He can make something out of nothing, he’s quick, he’s strong, the threat that he poses for Scotland is unbelievable.

“And not just him. You’ve got the likes of Darcy (Graham), Finn and the rest of their backline, Chris Harris. They’re unbelievable athletes.

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“We’ve got our hands full this weekend and they’re going to be a massive threat for us.”

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Ireland head coach Andy Farrell is due to name his team for the weekend on Thursday afternoon.

Aki is expected to once again partner Garry Ringrose, while fellow Lions centre Robbie Henshaw is a doubt due to a niggle.

The 33-year-old is braced for a demanding midfield battle.

“Their midfield has some world-class players,” Aki said of Scotland.

“You’ve got Sione Tuipulotu who is running amok around there, the likes of Chris Harris and Huw Jones, jeez I could talk all about their running lines, their gas and speed, the defensive side of things.

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“They’re playing unbelievably well, so we have to make sure we as a group know what’s coming ahead of us and make sure that we’re on top of our game.”

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Jon 1 days ago
Why Sam Cane's path to retirement is perfect for him and the All Blacks

> It would be best described as an elegant solution to what was potentially going to be a significant problem for new All Blacks coach Scott Robertson. It is a problem the mad population of New Zealand will have to cope with more and more as All Blacks are able to continue their careers in NZ post RWCs. It will not be a problem for coaches, who are always going to start a campaign with the captain for the next WC in mind. > Cane, despite his warrior spirit, his undoubted commitment to every team he played for and unforgettable heroics against Ireland in last year’s World Cup quarter-final, was never unanimously admired or respected within New Zealand while he was in the role. Neither was McCaw, he was considered far too passive a captain and then out of form until his last world cup where everyone opinions changed, just like they would have if Cane had won the WC. > It was never easy to see where Cane, or even if, he would fit into Robertson’s squad given the new coach will want to be building a new-look team with 2027 in mind. > Cane will win his selections on merit and come the end of the year, he’ll sign off, he hopes, with 100 caps and maybe even, at last, universal public appreciation for what was a special career. No, he won’t. Those returning from Japan have already earned the right to retain their jersey, it’s in their contract. Cane would have been playing against England if he was ready, and found it very hard to keep his place. Perform, and they keep it however. Very easy to see where Cane could have fit, very hard to see how he could have accomplished it choosing this year as his sabbatical instead of 2025, and that’s how it played out (though I assume we now know what when NZR said they were allowing him to move his sabbatical forward and return to NZ next year, they had actually agreed to simply select him for the All Blacks from overseas, without any chance he was going to play in NZ again). With a mammoth season of 15 All Black games they might as well get some value out of his years contract, though even with him being of equal character to Richie, I don’t think they should guarantee him his 100 caps. That’s not what the All Blacks should be about. He absolutely has to play winning football.

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