"He could be player of the tournament at this rate!"- Bundee Aki shines as Ireland smash Tonga
What a performance from the Connacht man...
On a night when Johnny Sexton will steal all the headlines, and rightly so we might add, it was the performance Bundee Aki in Ireland's midfield which will have stood out to many instead.
A rampaging 59-16 victory over Tonga sees Ireland sit atop of their Rugby World Cup pool, as Andy Farrell's side delivered yet another message of intent ahead of next weekend's mouthwatering clash with the Springboks in Paris.
Aki was pivotal in all aspects of this statement win, proving to be an immovable force in defence against a physically imposing Tongan backline, whilst scoring two tries of his own for the second game in succession.
Taking advantage of Robbie Henshaw's injury-laden World Cup build-up, there is no doubting now that Aki will don the 12 jersey against the Boks, with the Connacht centre emerging as one of this Irish side's on-field standard setters.
Despite the stellar performance though, Aki remained humble as ever in his post-match debrief by placing all the praise upon his teammates and begging up his Tongan opponents.
— RTÉ Rugby (@RTErugby) September 16, 2023
Bundee Aki shines as Ireland smash Tonga:
"I don't know if you can call four tackles a performance," Aki quipped as the World Rugby interviewer read him out his impressive in-game statistics.
"Full credit to our boys, and huge, huge respect to Tonga. They came out firing and we knew it was going to be a physical match. I know a lot of these boys from playing with and against them, and I expected nothing less from them, so huge respect to them.
"Hopefully they go out in the next couple of weeks and leave everything out there and best of luck to them."
Assessing his own side's performance, the former Waikato Chiefs centre remarked;
"There were good things, but there were a lot of other things that we'll need to work on. As a team I know we weren't as clinical as we wanted to be. There were a lot of dumb penalties given away so we will look at that and try to rectify it.
"I know we got the points we wanted but we're still not happy with the way we performed, and next week will be an even bigger test for us. But we will go out there and give it our best."
Heading back to the RTE studio after Aki's interview, Munster back Simon Zebo was asked for his thoughts on Aki's World Cup outings against Romania and Tonga, to which he replied;
"He could be player of the tournament at this rate!"
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