Bundee Aki speaks with resounding sense about Pat Lam's departure
We were worried about Bundee Aki for a while there.
One of the first signs that something was afoot at The Sportsground came via Aki's Twitter account, earlier this month. 'Feeling pissed' he tweeted. Minutes later, Connacht confirmed Pat Lam would be leaving the club.
Aki got a slap on the wrist for that and looked less than his brilliant best in the Champions Cup defeat to Wasps at the Ricoh Arena. Post-match, he looked crestfallen... for a while.
Aki had committed himself to Connacht up until 2019 off the back of a couple of heart-to-hearts with Pat Lam. Now that the head coach was moving on to Bristol, there were genuine fears that the province's star centre to seek to end his contract earlier than planned.
From an Irish perspective, that could mean Aki becoming qualified to play for Ireland after three years with Connacht only to move on to England or France. Former Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll had some unequivocal advice for the New Zealander. O'Driscoll told SportsJOE:
"Maybe Bundee Aki is put out by it but he is contracted to Connacht, he is still a Connacht player and whoever Connacht bring in as a new coach, he has to partner up well with him and try and continue to drive Connacht forward."
O'Driscoll, Connacht supporters and Irish rugby fans will be heartened, then, by Aki's definitive take on Lam's exit and his future with the province.
At an event for charity COPE Galway on Wednesday night, Aki told rugby writer John Fallon:
"Certainly I think I over-reacted. Pat has had a big influence on all of the boys, and especially myself, he has really improved my game.
"You have got to move on in rugby. People come and go and you have to enjoy every partnership you have and every professional you play with."
Aki may not like the fact that Lam is leaving next summer but he is doubling down on his efforts out West and seems determined to keep the Connacht success story going.
Good news for all concerned heading into an important Guinness PRO12 game away to Ulster.