Connacht sign Chiefs star Aki

Connacht have announced the signing of centre Bundee Aki from defending Super 15 champions the Chiefs.

The 24-year-old has signed a three-year deal with the Irish province and will move to the northern hemisphere at the end of this season's ITM Cup.

New Zealand-born Aki will fill the void left by Eoin Griffin, who joins London Irish this summer, and the retired Kyle Tonetti.

Aki has exploded onto the big stage under the expert tutelage of Wayne Smith, Tana Umaga and Dave Rennie, who has described the young player as "a very quick, aggressive and evasive ball carrier, who is destructive defensively."

Aki made 12 appearances for the Chiefs last season, scoring six tries as they retained their Super Rugby title, and he also appeared in every national provincial premiership game for the Counties Manukau Steelers when they won the Ranfurly Shield and made the semi-finals of the ITM Cup.

Connacht head coach Pat Lam said: "This is a fantastic coup for Connacht. It's great to be able to replace the loss of Eoin Griffin and Kyle Tonetti with the calibre of a player like Bundee.

"He is only 24 years old and has already shown with the Chiefs and Counties Manukau what a thrilling prospect he is for the game.

"It's very exciting to be adding him to our young Irish-qualified backline here at Connacht and he will bring a real attacking edge in midfield.

"He is a hard-working and talented individual and I believe that he will greatly contribute to the Connacht culture we've been developing and the vision we have laid out for the team.

"We're very much looking forward to welcoming him to the club."

Aki added: "I'm delighted to be able to confirm my move to Connacht Rugby. This is a huge opportunity for me and my family and I'm really excited by the new challenge.

"I spoke with Pat (Lam) and was very impressed with the aspirations he and the team have for the club and its future. It's definitely something I want to be a part of.

"Right now, I'm excited about getting back to playing with the Chiefs, where I've thoroughly enjoyed my time. There is a lot of rugby to be played before I start the next chapter with Connacht."