Bundee Aki shows another side of himself before reminding us all of his best qualities
"He was useless. That's what it was!"
Mike Catt could barely contain himself as Bundee Aki chose a high profile press conference at a Rugby World Cup to show off a more playful side of himself that many of us don't often get to see.
Andy Farrell and his coaches have been all for their players being themselves and letting their true personalities shine through, but Catt must have been regretting that maxim when he was fielding a question about squad discipline. Aki, with a mischievous grin, jumped in with his two cents.
Bundee Aki with unfinished World Cup business
Ahead of the World Cup opener against Romania, Andy Farrell spoke with the media about how some Ireland players may have enjoyed themselves too much, by the beach, in Biarritz in the lead-up to the tournament.
Mike Catt, Bundee Aki and James Ryan faced the media a day after those comments, after the captain's run. Catt, the Ireland attack coach, was asked to comment on whether Mack Hansen had been left out of the match-day 23 for disciplinary reasons. "No," replied Catt. "Not at all."
Sounds like a straightforward Q&A until you factor in Aki choosing that moment to have a bit of fun.
"He was useless," chimed Aki. "He was useless. That's what it was!"
Catt turned on Aki, who quickly added, "I'm kidding." As Catt then drove home that message, "No. No", he once again turned to Aki with a look that asked what in hell's name he was playing at.
As it turned out, fitness concerns over Robbie Henshaw saw Mack Hansen drafted onto the Ireland bench for that game. Farrell would later remark that the winger was running about 'like an Under 12' as Ireland chased a late try that broke a World Cup record.
During the same press briefing, Bundee Aki was asked about his 2019 World Cup red card against Samoa, and whether he saw this tournament as a chance to make things right.
"I forgot about that, so I'm not thinking about it again."
"I just want to play the best I can - do the best I can for the squad - and that's all I can do, really. I don't think about what happened in the past. All I can do is think about what is coming tomorrow and try put my best foot forward."
Against Romania, he certainly put that best foot forward. The Connacht centre scored two tries, assisted another and made 192 metres off 20 carries, including five clean breaks.
He may be held in reserve, possibly on the replacements bench, against Tonga and kept relatively fresh, and hungry, for South Africa on September 23.
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