Six Nations: Five things to know about Ireland wrecking ball Bundee Aki

Six Nations: Bundee Aki of Ireland during a warm-up Credit: Alamy
Six Nations: Bundee Aki of Ireland during a warm-up Credit: Alamy

Ireland centre Bundee Aki returned to the Test arena last weekend with a fantastic performance against Italy, wearing 13 on his back after a late withdrawal from Garry Ringrose.

Aki, who has played a fair amount of rugby at outside centre, delivered a brilliant performance, scoring one try, setting up another and making a whopping 107 metres with ball in hand.

Following the notable efforts on the field, Planet Rugby has put together five things to know about the robust runner.

New Zealand-born

Aki was born in Auckland on April 7 1990, and grew up in a large family as one of six siblings in Manurewa. The centre attended Manurewa High School and went on to feature in their first team.

The star would work his way up through the Counties Manukau ranks earning himself a Chiefs contract in 2013, where he went on to make 25 appearances for the club and win a Super Rugby title before being coaxed to Connacht in 2014.

The 32-year-old would win the PRO12 with Connacht in the 2015/2016 season resulting in an Ireland call-up a year later after he had qualified through residency.

Aki would also earn selection in 2021 for the British & Irish Lions’ tour of South Africa, where he made one Test appearance for the famous touring side.

Bundee is not his real name

Contrary to what one might think, Bundee is, in fact, a nickname given to the star. Aki’s birth name is Fua Leiofi owing to his Samoan heritage.

However, the star was called Bundellu after the doctor who delivered him all those years ago. Since then the nickname has been shortened to the “Bundee” most are familiar with.

Aki worked at a bank

Before the centre’s career with Counties Manukau took off and brought him further recognition, the Connacht man worked as a bank teller to generate funds to support his daughter Armani-Jade.

However, Aki did his best to continue with his rugby aspiration concurrently with the job, working long hours between the two before he caught the eye of the Chiefs.

Aki recalls the experience: “For a whole year, I was on not even a minimum wage, I wasn’t getting paid at rugby, doing half days at work, trying to juggle rugby, after work go back to club training. It was a hard time for me. I was hardly home. Wake up at six in the morning, go to training then to work and from work to training until about nine o’clock and I did that for a whole year.”

Seeing red

The Connacht man holds an unwanted Test-level record as he became the first Irishman to receive two red cards.

The first was against Samoa in the 2019 Rugby World Cup where Aki failed to drop his tackle height and made forceful contact with the ball carrier’s head. The second was against England in the 2021 Six Nations, where he would consider himself more unlucky but was ultimately sent off for a high tackle.

Aki also copped a lot of criticism for his reaction after seeing red against the Stormers in the United Rugby Championship earlier this season as he confronted the referee after the decision was made.

Love of Ma’a Nonu

As a New Zealand-born centre, as robust as they come, it is no surprise that Aki holds the legendary Nonu in high esteem.

Aki has gone on record several times, admitting that Nonu is the most difficult player he has faced due to the impressive strength of the former All Black.

The two share a robust nature, and it makes perfect sense for a tough competitor like the Irish international to mould his game towards one of the greatest the game has seen.

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