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Joe Schmidt defends Bundee Aki's place in side after Foster dig

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Bundee Aki on the charge (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

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Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt has responded to a dig from All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster and defended midfielder Bundee Aki’s place in the Irish squad.

Aki was born in Auckland and played Super Rugby for the Chiefs before moving to Ireland in 2014, where he has since played for Connacht.

He made his test debut for Ireland last year after qualifying to play for the nation after three years of residence.

“You have moulded him into an Irishman, he looks like an Irishman now doesn’t he?” Foster said. “There will be a couple of our guys who have probably played with him and know him personally but we are kind of getting used to that.”

Schmidt, who was also born in New Zealand, insisted that Aki has proved where his loyalties lie.

“I think Bundee has probably demonstrated through the last year, he made his debut against South Africa last year in this particular section of the year. And I think he won personality of the year.

“That’s the nature of Bundee and his popularity. Because everybody knows he’s going to give 100 per cent.

“It’s like asking was Jerome Kaino 100 per cent ready to play for the All Blacks, because he was born in a foreign country. Or Chris Masoe, or Joe Rokocoko, or any of those guys.

“So having coached all those guys, they were very ready to play for the All Blacks. Bundee Aki is very ready to play for us in this weekend’s fixture.”

Ireland beat the All Blacks for the first time ever in 2016, ending a 111-year drought after running away victors 40-29 in Chicago.

“It’s always an achievement to beat the All Blacks, that’s why we limit ourselves to once every 115 years because we don’t want to get carried away with things,” Schmidt joked.

“When they first arrived [in Ireland] in 1905, they were incredibly tough to knock over and I don’t think they’ve changed too much.

“The depth of their experience, it is formidable and it would be a huge feather in these players’ cap if they could topple them on Saturday.”

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