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Andy Goode Column: Ireland Need To Lock Bundee Aki Down On A Long Term Deal And Get Him Irish Qualified

This week rugby has taken a back seat as we all remembered Anthony Foley. The tragic events of last Sunday took us all by surprise, and my thoughts and prayers are with his family.

Anthony was a phenomenal character, as a player who played against him with the Leicester Tigers, we had some epic battles with Munster over the years. Despite the intense rivalry between both teams, he would always sound out his opposite number after games.

Anthony would kick lumps out of anyone and everyone in a Tigers or England shirt on the field, but buy you a beer off it. He was the DNA of Munster rugby, epitomising it’s spirit and determination.

Munster will want to remember Anthony this weekend by being massively physical against Glasgow, by not taking a step back and claiming a win in what will be a special atmosphere in Thomond Park.

Heineken European Cup Final Leicester vs Munster 25/5/2002 Anthony Foley of Munster gets away from Neil Back of Leicester Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Patrick Bolger

Glasgow will want to pay their respects to Anthony, but Gregor Townsend’s side will also be professional. They were fantastic last weekend against Leicester.

The Warriors were better in every facet of the game, and took advantage of Leicester’s porous defence around the fringes. Every defensive system is built around the breakdown, you have to get your guards in place and build from there.

You have to force the attacking side to beat you on the outside with a sublime piece of skill. If they do that, you can only applaud the effort, but Leicester made it easy for Glasgow at times. That isn’t taking anything away from their performance, Leonardo Sarto was brilliant and made the most of his opportunities.

The result puts a huge amount of pressure Richard Cockerill and the coaching staff at the Tigers. If Racing win at Welford Road this weekend, Leicester are effectively out of the competition. Although I don’t agree with hiring and firing in rugby, questions will be asked if the result doesn’t go Cockers’ way.

The way in which Glasgow won demonstrated the capabilities of the Pro12 sides. Townsend is a brilliant coach and his side play an attractive brand of rugby. The same can be said of Connacht, who opened up Toulouse on a number of occasions.

Bundee Aki was phenomenal. He was so good the Toulouse defenders were running away from him when he had the ball in hand. Ireland will want to lock him down on a long term contract and get him Irish qualified.

Toulouse caused Connacht a lot of problems with their power, but couldn’t live Aki and the pace the Irish side brought to the game. The Sportsground might produce a brilliant atmosphere, but the wind makes it a horrendous for kickers, so for Craig Ronaldson to land that conversion from the touchline was something else.

bundee-aki

Although the Scarlets and Leinster also recorded wins over their opponents, I still feel the Italian sides shouldn’t be involved in the tournament. The Champions Cup is supposed to be an elite competition, and should not see teams suffer massive 82-14 defeats.

Having an Italian side in your pool is also an unfair advantage. Some of the groups are ultra competitive, with Ulster and the Exeter Chiefs essentially fighting for their lives on Saturday, but Toulouse might still have a chance of qualification even if they lose against Wasps. You can’t be given a 10 point freebie when there is so much at stake.

Saracens remain a step ahead of everyone else, their first half display was faultless. Toulon were always going to respond in the second half, but the way in which they created Chris Wyles’ try was nothing short of spectacular.

The catalyst for the score was of course Mako Vunipola’s step and offload, but watch again how Maro Itoje threw a perfect 20 meter pass to George Kruis who executed a two-on-one to put Wyles over. That kind of handling is a credit to Kevin Sorrell and Joe Shaw their backs and skills coaches respectively.

The way in which Saracens now play the game should put to bed any accusations of them being merely a kick chase team. They are now a complete side, which is ominous for every other team in Europe.

Andy Goode, Pundit Arena

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Author: The PA Team

This article was written by a member of The PA Team. If you would like to join the team, drop us an email at write@punditarena.com.

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