Connacht’s Bundee Aki is still on course to make his Ireland debut later this year.
The New Zealand-born centre is set to qualify for Joe Schmidt’s side in October, which under the current rules would allow him to be named in the Ireland squad for the Autumn internationals and following in the footsteps of the likes of CJ Stander and compatriot Jared Payne.
World Rugby will meet next month and one of the proposals up for discussion will be the prospect of extending the eligible period of residency from three years to five – which, if passed, would technically have meant that the 26-year-old would have had to wait until 2019 to switch alliegance. Indeed the rule surrounding the three-year residency has been a contentious one, and it is something that vice-chairman Gus Pichot has been quite eager to reform.
However, cases like Aki’s are apparently to fall under an exception to the rule. According to the Press Association (via RTE Sport), a “cooling off” period will come as part of the new regulation to prevent any player being caught in between the old rule and the new one. While the amount of time that this period would go on for has not been specified, presumably it will only apply to players that would qualify for residency before the end of this year.
While Aki himself hasn’t committed to either accepting or rejecting the chance to play for Ireland, if he does outline his willingness to accept a call-up then he is almost certain to receive one.