Connacht sign new centre ahead of European home clash against Worcester

Connacht's Bundee Aki who is expected to return to the team for tomorrow (Saturday's) European Challenge Cup tie against Worcester at the Sportsground.
Connacht's Bundee Aki who is expected to return to the team for tomorrow (Saturday's) European Challenge Cup tie against Worcester at the Sportsground.

CONNACHT have received a timely boost ahead of their Challenge Cup showdown against Worcester at the Sportsground this Saturday (3pm) after it was announced that former All-Blacks World Cup Sevens winner Pita Ahki has signed for the province.

The 25-year-old centre signs from Mitre 10 Cup side Waikato, having previously played Super Rugby with the Blues and the Hurricanes, and, no doubt, his acquisition couldn’t be timelier after it was confirmed earlier this week that Fijian Eroni Vasiteri would not be joining the club after all.

Cited for an eye gouging incident, Vasiteri, who had been due to join the Westerners from Australian National Rugby Championship side Fijian Drua in the coming weeks, is currently serving a nine-week suspension and would not be available for the province for a further two months.

However, Connacht have moved quickly to find a replacement and in Ahki they have found a player with an impressive CV. Playing for the All Blacks Sevens team, Ahki won a World Cup medal in 2013 and helped New Zealand to a silver medal at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. He is also a graduate of the Junior World Championships having played for Tonga Under 20s in 2011 and New Zealand Under 20s in 2012.

Commenting on the new signing, Connacht Head Coach Kieran Keane said: “Pita is a highly-rated young player who has played Super Rugby for the Blues and the Hurricanes. He is a strong pacey player who will add to our attacking options. I think he will fit in well at Connacht and I am delighted to be welcoming him to the province.”

Ahki, too, is excited about playing at the Sportsground, adding: “I am looking forward to the prospect of playing European and PRO14 rugby. Connacht have developed a huge reputation as a proud club with community central to everything they do. I can’t wait to join up with the squad and meet the Sportsground crowd.”

Meanwhile, Connacht will be hoping they can build on their 43-15 victory over Oyonnax in their European Challenge Cup opener at Stade de Genève last weekend. Winger Matt Healy crossed the whitewash twice in the win, with his first try setting the Irish outfit on their way after just three minutes.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.