Bundee Aki claims rugby award every Irish supporter can get behind
"He was brilliant for Ireland all year, so… Deserves to be sung as a hero."
Robbie Henshaw, Chris Farrell, Garry Ringrose. All have come into the Irish midfield for big Test matches this year but Aki has been there for all but one.
The Connacht centre was rested for the Melbourne win over Australia and sat out the final Test of the year as Ireland cruised by USA. He started the other 10 and was vital to what must go down as the most successful ever year for an Irish rugby side.
On Baz & Andrew's House of Rugby [from 46:00 below] the performances and accomplishments of Aki were rightly recognised as hosts Barry Murphy and Andrew Trimble handed out their end of year awards.
As part of their awards, which include accolades for Best Player (Tadhg Furlong), Young Player (James Ryan) and Moment (Johnny Sexton's drop goal in Paris), Aki was up for 'Unsung Hero of the Year'. He was up against Leinster lock Devin Toner and Munster No.8 CJ Stander.
"Devin Toner - the lineout connoisseur - he simply solves problems in the lineout and Joe Schmidt keeps going back to him because he does a job, week in, week out," said Trimble.
Murphy, meanwhile, praised Stander's work-rate. "He is ever-present whenever he is called upon to make a carry or empty the tank," said the former Munster and Ireland centre, "and every game, he looks like he gives everything."
Once it came to making the call, however, both Trimble and Murphy were in agreement that Aki was a deserving recipient. Trimble commented:
"Bundee Aki played every game in the Six Nations, First and third Test in Australia and then Argentina and New Zealand in the autumn.
"And, I suppose there would be a big argument. A lot of people would – and this would be public opinion now, whether this is what Joe (Schmidt) thinks or whether his teammates think this, I don’t know – but, I suppose, generally people would regard the first-choice centres would be two of (Robbie) Henshaw, (Garry) Ringrose and Chris Farrell. But Bundee Aki has been there and he has delivered time and time again for Ireland."
While Aki missed out on several World's Best XV selections, his worth to this Irish team has been recognised on these shores - he was in SportsJOE's top five players of the year - and, more importantly, his teammates and coaches.
CHECK OUT THAT HOUSE OF RUGBY EPISODE HERE: