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Bundee Aki
Bundee Aki Feb 2023.jpg
Aki representing Ireland during the 2023 Six Nations Championship
Full name Fua Leiofi Bundellu Aki
Date of birth (1990-04-07) 7 April 1990 (age 33)
Place of birth Auckland, New Zealand
Height 1.78 m (5 ft 10 in)
Weight 102 kg (225 lb; 16 st 1 lb)
School Manurewa High School
University Athlone Institute of Technology
Rugby union career
Position(s) Centre
Current team Connacht
Senior career
Years Team Apps (Points)
2011–2014 Counties Manukau 43 (50)
2013–2014 Chiefs 25 (50)
2014– Connacht 121 (130)
Correct as of 23 October 2022
National team(s)
Years Team Apps (Points)
2017– Ireland 52 (80)
2021 British & Irish Lions 1 (0)
Correct as of 16 October 2023

Fua Leiofi Bundellu Aki (born 7 April 1990) is a professional rugby union player who plays as a centre for United Rugby Championship club Connacht. Born in New Zealand, he represents Ireland at international level after qualifying on residency grounds.

Early life

Of Samoan descent, Aki was born in the Auckland suburb of Ōtāhuhu, to Hercules and Sautia Aki. He was named Fua Leiofi, but was called Bundellu after the doctor who delivered him. The nickname "Bundee" was given to him by a rugby coach at under-age level. Bundee was the second eldest of six children, with one brother and four sisters.

Aki grew up in Manurewa, a suburb in South Auckland, and attended Manurewa High School, where he played for the school's First XV rugby team. He took a year out from a professional rugby career in 2011, when he worked as a bank teller.

Personal life

Aki grew up and went to school with fellow Chiefs teammate Tim Nanai-Williams.

Aki has four children and frequently highlights the importance his family has to him. Aki lives in Oranmore, a suburb of Galway city.

Club career

Malaysia

Aki played for the Borneo Eagles based in Sabah, East Malaysia Year.

Counties Manukau

Aki began playing for Counties Manukau in the 2011 season. He made nine appearances for the side with five of these coming as starts, scoring three tries as they finished fourth in the Championship Division of the 2011 ITM Cup. In the 2012 ITM Cup, he played 11 of the team's 12 games, starting on each occasion and scoring six tries. Counties Manukau finished top of the Championship Division and won their play-off games against Southland and Otago, which earned the side promotion to the following year's Premiership Division.

With Counties promoted to the Premiership Division, he played in all ten of their regular season games in the 2013 ITM Cup, starting eight of these, as the team qualified for the play-offs on their return to the top flight. He also started in the team's play-off semi-final, a 41–10 defeat to Wellington. Aki scored one try during the course of the season, with the score coming against Tasman in a 20–40 defeat.

2014 was Aki's final season with Counties, as it had been announced earlier in the year that he would be leaving New Zealand to join Irish side Connacht. He started all ten games as Counties finished fifth, two points outside the playoff places, in the 2014 ITM Cup, but did not score any points. Aki's final appearance for Counties Manukau came in the team's 41–18 victory over Auckland on 8 October 2014.

Chiefs

In September 2012, it was announced that Aki had signed for reigning Super Rugby champions the Chiefs, having been part of the side's development set up previously. Aki came into the team for the 2013 Super Rugby season. He played in 13 of the side's 18 regular season games, starting 12 of these and scoring five tries, as Chiefs finished top of the table. Aki also featured for the team in the play-offs coming off the bench after 48 minutes against Crusaders in the semi-final, and after 46 minutes in the final against the Brumbies as Chiefs won their second title in a row.

Aki played ten times for Chiefs in the regular season of the 2014 season, starting seven of these matches and scoring three tries. Chiefs finished sixth in the final standings of the league season, the final qualifying spot for the competition's play-off rounds. Aki started in the Chiefs' quarter-final game against the Brumbies, a replay of the previous year's final. Aki scored his fourth try of the season, but finished on the losing side as the Brumbies won the game by 32–30. This was Aki's final game for the Chiefs, as it had been announced earlier in the year that he would be moving to Irish side, Connacht.

Connacht

EPCR Challenge Cup 22-23- Benetton Rugby vs Connacht Rugby-14 (52793583675)
Aki before Connacht's 2022–23 Challenge Cup match against Benetton Rugby

Aki signed for Connacht in April 2014 and moved to Ireland ahead of the 2014–15 season. This move made him the second Chiefs player in as many years to join Connacht, following the transfer of captain Craig Clarke the previous season. He quickly became a key part of Connacht's setup, starting whenever fit and excelling on the pitch.

On 25 October 2016, Aki signed a new contract to remain at Connacht until 2020. He became eligible to play for Ireland after completing three years of residence in the country in October 2017.

In November 2019, he signed a fresh three-year extension to his central contract, to keep him with Connacht until the summer of 2023 at least, the first Connacht player to sign a central deal with the union. After signing, he declared: "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 (...) From the start of my Debut in the Irish jersey me and my family have had great support". His decision to extend his contract came after much media speculation about what his future may hold after a disappointing 2019 Rugby World Cup.

In October 2023, following Ireland's exit from the Rugby World Cup and Aki's nomination for World Player Of The Year, the IRFU announced Aki had extended his central contract, keeping him at Connacht to 2025.

International career

Ireland call-up

Aki was qualified to play for New Zealand, where he was born and raised, and Samoa, the country of origin of his parents. However, after completing a three-year residency period, he became eligible to represent Ireland on the international stage.

On 26 October 2017, Aki was named in the extended Ireland squad for the Autumn internationals. His inclusion came at a time when a growing number of players were qualifying to play for a foreign nation based on the three-year residency rule, which sparked a huge debate about eligibility rules in rugby union.

Parts of the media stated that he had no real connection with Ireland, was getting in the way of Irish talent going through the ranks, and questioned loyalty issues should Aki decide to move abroad after his contract was over thus ending his international career. His selection was criticised by some former internationals, including Neil Francis and Luke Fitzgerald, who was generally critical of the residency rule, but supported by others including Alan Quinlan Simon Easterby, and Chris Farrell. Other rugby figures, including Conor Murray, and former Ireland head coach Eddie O'Sullivan, whilst critical of the residency rule, felt it was unfair individual players such as Aki to be singled out for criticism. Aki acknowledged the criticism, admitting that a big part of his motivation to move to Ireland was to play international rugby, and noted that he hoped that he could do the country proud with his on-field performance.

Ireland career

Aki made his debut for Ireland in the 38–3 win against South Africa at the Aviva Stadium on 11 November 2017, playing the full 80 minutes. Two weeks later he played against Argentina, again featuring for the entire match in a 28–19 win.

In the 2018 Six Nations, Aki was the only centre to feature in every game for Ireland as they won the Grand Slam. Injuries to centre partners Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw and Chris Farrell meant that Aki started every match and was only replaced in the final game against England due to injury. He was also part of the team's end-of season tour of Australia, which saw Ireland win a test series against Australia for the first time since 1979.

Aki continued to be a regular starter for Ireland in the 2018–19 season. On 17 November 2018, he started against his native New Zealand in a 16–9 win. This was Ireland's first victory over the All Blacks on home soil. Aki also featured in all five of Ireland's games in the 2019 Six Nations, as they finished third in a disappointing defence of their Grand Slam title.

In September 2019, Aki was named in the Irish squad for the upcoming World Cup. He started Ireland's opening game against Scotland, but was removed after only 20 minutes in the 27–3 win due to a head injury. This injury caused him to miss the next game against Japan, which ended in a shock 19–12 defeat to leave Ireland in danger of elimination. Aki returned to the starting lineup for the following game against Russia, and also started the final pool match against over Samoa but was sent off in the 29th minute of the 47–5 win. The red card resulted in a three-game suspension, ruling Aki out of the remainder of the tournament. Ireland were eliminated in the next round, as New Zealand ran out 46–14 victors in the quarter-finals.

Aki was banned for four games after receiving a red card for a high tackle on Billy Vunipola in Ireland's 32–18 win against England in the 2021 Six Nations Championship on 20 March.

He was called up to be part of the Irish squad for the 2023 Six Nations Championship which went on to win their fourth Grand Slam. In August 2023, he was selected to be in Ireland's World Cup squad ahead of the 2023 World Cup in France.

British & Irish Lions

On 6 May 2021, Aki was named in the squad for the 2021 British & Irish Lions tour to South Africa. He made his test debut on 7 August 2021 in the final test. South Africa won the final test 19–16 and the series by two games to one.

Career statistics

List of international tries

Number Position Points Tries Result Opposition Venue Date Ref.
1 Centre 5 1 Won Italy Aviva Stadium 10 February 2018
2 Centre 5 1 Won Wales Aviva Stadium 24 February 2018
3 Centre 5 1 Won Argentina Aviva Stadium 10 November 2018
4 Centre 5 1 Lost England Twickenham Stadium 24 August 2019
5 Centre 5 1 Won Italy Aviva Stadium 24 October 2020
6 Centre 5 1 Won Japan Aviva Stadium 6 November 2021
7 Centre 5 1 Won Wales Aviva Stadium 5 February 2022
8 Centre 5 1 Lost New Zealand Eden Park 2 July 2022
9 Centre 5 1 Won Australia Aviva Stadium 19 November 2022
10 Centre 5 1 Won Italy Stadio Olimpico 25 February 2023
11 Centre 5 1 Won England Aviva Stadium 19 August 2023
12–13 Centre 10 2 Won Romania Nouveau Stade de Bordeaux 9 September 2023
14–15 Centre 10 2 Won Tonga Stade de la Beaujoire 16 September 2023
16 Centre 5 1 Lost New Zealand Stade de France 14 October 2023

as of 15 October  2023 (2023 -10-15)

Honours

Chiefs
  • 1× Super Rugby: 2013
Connacht
  • 1× Pro12: 2016
  • 1× Pro12 Player of the Season: 2016
  • 1× Pro12 Dream Team: 2016
Ireland
  • 2× Six Nations Championship: 2018, 2023
  • 2× Grand Slam: 2018, 2023
  • 3× Triple Crown: 2018, 2022, 2023
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