Bundee Aki sur­prised by Ir­ish squad call up

Manukau Courier - - HEALTH & BEAUTY - STAFF RE­PORTERS

For­mer Chiefs mid­fielder Bundee Aki says his first taste of an Ire­land train­ing camp was ‘‘a big step up from pro rugby’’.

The 27-year-old - who qual­i­fies in Oc­to­ber to play for Ire­land af­ter three years with Pro 14 club Con­nacht - was called into a re­cent train­ing camp by Ire­land’s New Zealand-born coach Joe Sch­midt.

‘‘I went to the camp re­cently and I was very ex­cited,’’ Aki said in an in­ter­view with Bri­tain’s Sky Sports chan­nel. Very ner­vous at the same time; when I got there I was meet­ing dif­fer­ent kinds of peo­ple. I was very ex­cited too, just see­ing how they do things. It was an eye-opener, a big step up from pro rugby. I en­joyed ev­ery mo­ment of it and I en­joyed the chal­lenge that was laid out.’’

The for­mer Coun­ties Manukau stal­wart, who helped Con­nacht win the 2015-16 Pro 12 ti­tle, said there was a lot to take in - on and off the train­ing field.

‘‘I was ac­tu­ally very lucky to be in that first camp. There was a few of us [Con­nacht play­ers] there so it was good.’’

Aki said while he was pleased to be in­volved with Ire­land: ‘‘[I’m] just tak­ing it one step at a time, ob­vi­ously I just need to play well here for us first and see how we go.’’

PHIL WAL­TER

Bundee Aki when he used to play for Coun­ties Manukau.

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