Bundee Aki will continue to train with the Ireland squad ahead of their titanic World Cup quarter-final showdown with New Zealand and will have a “massive” influence on preparations, according to Simon Easterby.
The Connacht centre was handed a three-match ban on Monday following his high tackle on during Ireland’s 47-5 win over Samoa in their final Pool A game, thus ruling him out of the rest of the World Cup campaign.
The IRFU released a brief statement saying that they are disappointed with the outcome and are awaiting the Judicial Committee’s written report. Once that report is received, Ireland have 48 hours to decide if they want to lodge an appeal.
In the meantime, Ireland forwards coach Simon Easterby has confirmed that Aki will continue to train with the squad ahead of Saturday’s game in Toyko (kick-off 11.15 UK/Irish time).
“It can be massive that he’s still able to train. He’s a good trainer anyway, but he’ll be focused on doing everything he can now”, Easterby told RTE.
“There’s no better man for knowing how the Kiwis work and how they might be approaching this. He’s a big part of this group and he’ll continue to be part of it no matter the outcome.”
While the committee ruled that there were mitigating factors in Aki’s hit on Ulupano Seuteni, he showed instant remorse following the hit and spent a substantial amount of time with the Samoan players on the field following the game.
Both Joe Schmidt and Samoa’s head coach Steve Jackson were quick to defend Aki saying that he was “devastated” while Jackson added that the 29-year-old would not intentionally hurt anyone.
Easterby reiterated their comments today insisting that Aki was “not a dirty player”.
“We’re disappointed because Bundee is a big part of the squad, so we’re disappointed for him.
“He’s nowhere near a dirty player. He was sanctioned on the day, and we lost him for a large chunk of the game.
“We’re lucky that we have a real good group of players in that midfield, but he’s one of those and we’d be disappointed if we don’t get to use him.
“He was really upset about the decision and rightfully so.”