Bundee Aki On Why He Never Publicly Admitted He Wanted To Play For Ireland
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Bundee Aki has opened up for the first time about how he always intended on playing for Ireland. The Connacht centre was quizzed about it several times before making his Ireland debut, but refused to give a definitive answer.
In a fascinating interview with Brendan Fanning in The Irish Independent, Aki explained that he likes to keep his goals personal. And that he had spoken to Joe Schmidt 18 months after first arriving in the west of Ireland.
From the very beginning Aki told Schmidt he wanted to play for Ireland.
“A year and a half after I got here, Joe (Schmidt) spoke to me (but) I like to keep things to myself, to keep my goals to myself or within the family, not to share stuff.
Joe did ask me if I was keen to play for Ireland and I said yes. He said you’ve just got make sure you do the hard work. I said if I’m good enough, you’ll pick me. If I’m not, that’s fine by me.”
Aki’s approach to the questions about his international future didn’t go down well at the time. Some thought the New Zealnder had no interest in representing Ireland. But Aki says he didn’t want to disrespect “the boys who grew up here and always dreamt of playing for Ireland”, by putting his hand up and saying “pick me.”
“Yeah, I think people did get the wrong end of the stick with that. What I meant was that I didn’t want to disrespect the boys who grew up here and always dreamt of playing for Ireland.
I didn’t want to disrespect them by coming in and saying, ‘Pick me!’ Because you’re a foreigner, people can expect you to play well and maybe they look closer at you than guys who are from Ireland. I think people took it wrong but that’s what I meant.
Ireland has welcomed me with open arms and I feel just as privileged to wear that jersey as the players who wore it before me. I’m relaxed about it because it was a long road to get where I am now. It’s a relief to know that you can compete at the highest level.”