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Friend has 'no doubt' that Aki will remain at Connacht

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Connacht director of rugby Andy Friend says he has "no doubt" that Bundee Aki will be at the province next season.The Ireland international's absence from the squad in recent weeks has been a major talking point, with the centre last featuring in their defeat to Ulster on 23 December.While Aki was officially rested for the New Year's Day defeat to Leinster, he's been available for selection each of their last three games against Sharks, Brive and Newcastle, but hasn't been involved.And although he's believed to be contracted to the IRFU until the end of 2024, his ongoing absence from the Connacht side has led to speculation he could leave the province this summer, with local reports suggesting Munster as a possible destination.However, Friend has dismissed the speculation."I've no doubt he'll be here," the director of rugby said, when asked if he believed Aki would remain at Connacht."It's all just paper talk as far as I'm aware."Aki will be absent from the squad once again this week, although this time due to his involvement in Ireland's Six Nations training camp.And Friend (below) says he doesn't regret leaving his star centre out of the squad for last week's Challenge Cup game against Newcastle Falcons, where a 35-21 defeat saw them miss out on home advantage in the last-16."We picked that team based upon form, based upon what we felt was right for that weekend, and we didn't get the job done which is very disappointing.

We've got to own that."At the time we selected the team, it was the right team."He's certainly not surplus [to requirements], as we know he's away for the next five weeks with Six Nations, and the ideal scenario is that he has a great Six Nations, he comes back and is raring to go and playing his best

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