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Perenara proud of 'mate' Aki

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TJ Perenara proud of Irish 'mate' Bundee Aki

All Blacks halfback TJ Perenara has expressed his pride in ‘mate’ and Ireland midfielder Bundee Aki following his side’s 16-9 loss in Dublin last weekend.

“Losing to Ireland in the weekend, obviously disappointed and gutted about that, but seeing a mate like Bundee on the world stage and doing his thing in an Irish jersey, even though he though he probably grew up wanting to play for the All Blacks but succeeding on that side of the world, I was proud for his achievements,” Perenara told reporters in Rome.

The pair shared a hongi at the conclusion of last weekend’s match.

Aki was born in Auckland and played Super Rugby for the Chiefs before shifting to Ireland in 2014. After playing in Ireland with Connacht for three years he became eligible to represent the nation, and now has 12 test caps for the side after making his international debut in 2017.

The 28-year-old’s selection as a foreign-born player was backed by Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt after a dig from All Blacks assistant Ian Foster.

“I think Bundee has fully demonstrated his commitment through the last year,” Schmidt told media earlier in the week. “He made his debut against South Africa last year in this particular section of the year, and in 2016 he won (PRO12) personality of the year.

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

Perenara is looking forward to the All Blacks’ next challenge, their final test of the year. The side meet Italy on Saturday to close out their 2018 campaign.

“There’s a genuine excitement to get out and play good football. You’re right, there’s disappointment from the previous week; we don’t want to lose any test match,” said Perenara. “[But] I don’t think the back-end of the year is on many people’s mind to be completely honest with you.

“We play this game because we love the game and, if anything, that two months not playing the game is probably the hardest time of the year because we don’t get to go out and do what we love on a Saturday.”

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TJ Perenara proud of Irish 'mate' Bundee Aki