Aki starts for Connacht in Champions Cup opener

Aki starts for Connacht in Champions Cup opener

Bundee Aki is set to make his first start for Connacht this season in the upcoming Investec Champions Cup opener against Bordeaux-Begles at The Sportsground tomorrow (kick-off at 8 pm).  

The World Player of the Year nominee has recovered from a hamstring injury. This will be his first start since Ireland’s Rugby World Cup quarter final. 

Five changes have been made to the starting XV from the previous week's game against Leinster. 

Denis Buckley, Finlay Bealham, Joe Joyce, and Andrew Smith join Aki in the lineup. The front row consists of an experienced trio with Dave Heffernan, Denis Buckley, and Finlay Bealham. Darragh Murray retains his place in the second row, and the back row remains unchanged with Sean Jansen, Cian Prendergast, and Shamus Hurley-Langton. 

Maintaining their partnership, Caolin Blade and JJ Hanrahan start at half-back, while the backline is reshuffled. Cathal Forde shifts from 12 to 13 to pair up with Aki in the centre. Byron Ralston moves to the wing, and Mack Hansen takes the full-back position, with Smith completing the side on the opposite wing. 


Commenting ahead of the game, head coach Pete Wilkins says: “Champions Cup nights at The Sportsground are special occasions and we expect Friday to be no different. 

Of course there was disappointment with Saturday's result against Leinster, but it shows we have the quality to perform against the best teams in Europe. We used Monday to review and bank the lessons from the game, and the whole squad is excited to get back out in front of another big crowd against another quality opponent.  

Bordeaux will arrive with a star-studded squad and, like many French sides, will have x-factor players who can light up a game if you give them the chance. For us it is a fantastic opportunity show we can impose our personalities and style of play against a quality team on the biggest European stage.  

The atmosphere at The Sportsground last week was unbelievable and I’ve no doubt it will be something similar again tomorrow night. Our incredible supporters provide so much energy to the players and we look forward to rewarding them with a massive performance.”   



  1. Byron Ralston - Wing 11. Andrew Smith - Wing 15. Mack Hansen - Full-back
  2. Cathal Forde - Inside Centre (Number 12) 13 Bundee Aki - Outside Centre (Number 13
  3. Caolin Blade - Scrumhalf. 10. JJ Hanrahan -Fly-half

Front pack:  

  1. Dave Heffernan - Hooker 2. Denis Buckley - Prop 3. Finlay Bealham
  2. Darragh Murray - Second Row 5. Joe Joyce - Second Row 
  3. Cian Prendergast - Flanker 7. Shamus Hurley-Langton - Flanker 8. Sean Jansen

Replacements: Tadgh McElroy, Peter Dooley, Jack Aungier, Niall Murray, Conor Oliver, Michael McDonald, David Hawkshaw, John Porch.