It is not always clear who is qualified to play for which country in international rugby, so there was some consternation when New Zealand’s Bundee Aki was name to Ireland’s squad to make a Test debut against South Africa.
It seems that Aki fits the bill for inclusion with the Irish side after living in the Emerald Isle after spending the past three years playing for the club side Connacht since 2017.
No further evidence of rugby players’ toughness need be provided beyond the fact that Aki has survived three years in Ireland, where the word dreary was coined, but does not come anywhere close to describing the climate.
In the future, residency requirements will be raised to five years at the end of 2020, but for now, it suffices that Aki can play on the Ireland squad for Kiwi Coach Joe Schmidt in the upcoming Test against the Springboks.
Some of us feel that it is a good thing that residency requirements do not apply to us writers, as we are often referred to as the Men Without a Country.
Irish halfback Conor Murray spoke up in defense of Aki’s inclusion with the Irish side, although we cannot comment on either Murray’s residency status or his heredity, although the surname Murray certainly sounds far more Irish that does Aki.
It is not as though Aki playing for the Irish represents anything new. Another Kiwi, centre Jared Payne, which sounds suspiciously like an alias for Jarryd Hayne, played for the British and Irish Lions when that squad made a tour of New Zealand earlier in 2017.
If it is Irish critics who object to Aki’s presence, they will soon be mollified if Aki performs well. Aki has impressed with his play for Connacht under two other Kiwi coaches, Pat Lam and Kieran Keane.
The 27-year-old Aki was born in Auckland and spent his developing years from 2011 to 2014 playing provincial footy for Counties Manukau. He also played Super Rugby for two seasons with the Chiefs before uprooting and moving to Ireland.