"Apologies for the language" - Bundee Aki frustrations picked up on ref microphone during Italy win
"We did some really good stuff and then we did the total opposite."
Bundee Aki returned to the Ireland starting line-up for the first time since last July but did not have it all his own way against Italy.
The Connacht centre was set to play at inside centre beside Garry Ringrose until his teammate was ruled out, on Friday, with a calf injury. Stuart McCloskey came back into the Ireland XV while Aki shifted one position over in the backline, to outside centre.
Aki ended up with a try and a try assist but could have finished with double that, had he and James Lowe been more clinical and sure-handed in scoring positions. Aki looked eminently threatening in attack but was exposed in defence on a few Italian flurries. In fairness to the 32-year-old, he may have missed five tackles but the team missed a total of 27 against their hosts.
Aki also won two turnovers for his side but conceded three, including a knock-on near the Italian tryline. Mike Adamson awarded a try, down on the pitch, but replays showed the Ireland centre had lost control for a split second before regathering and dotting down.
It was somewhat understandable, then, that Aki was picked up on Adamson's ref-mic turning the Toman sky blue after conceding a penalty, late in the game.
ITV commentator apologises for Bundee Aki language
Ireland were made sweat by Italy, at Stadio Olimpico, before a late try from Mack Hansen sealed a bonus point victory.
Italy were pressing for a try that would give them hope of an unlikely comeback, a few minutes later, when James Lowe brought down Ange Capuozzo. Bundee Aki eyed a turnover poach but referee Mike Adamson penalised him.
Aki let out a curse, calling his own actions '****ing stupid' and the remarks were picked up on the ref-mic. ITV commentator Nick Mullins apologised on behalf of the Ireland star. Sitting beside Mullins in the commentary booth, former England prop David Flatman remarked:
"I’m glad Bundee said it himself, because I obviously wasn’t going to say it about him! He’s frustrated with himself."
Ireland survived that final burst of Italian attacking pressure before seeing out the game on the front-foot to win 34-20 and stay on course for a Grand Slam.
"Mixed bags," Bundee Aki reflected in his post-match interview with ITV. "We did some really good stuff, then the total opposite, but that's just credit to Italy. We knew it was going to be a tough game, we said that all week.
"They're a proud nation, we just had to make sure that our discipline was on the right side, and I definitely can put my hand up there, it definitely wasn't on the right side, it was on the bad side so I certainly didn't help the squad out there, and we paid the price towards the end, but fair play to Italy, they gave it to us, but fair play to our boys the digged in deep, as well."
"I think an overall performance [needs to be better] really," Aki added. "Definitely on the discipline side of things, that's one big thing we talked about all week, and I can certainly say I was one of the ones who wasn't disciplined."
Aki may find himself up against Stuart McCloskey, Garry Ringrose and Robbie Henshaw for a starting jersey when Ireland take on Scotland in their next Six Nations game, in a fortnight.
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