Bundee Aki

Sam Simmonds makes cut but Bundee Aki is the shock Lions bolter

Simmonds, the Exeter number eight and current European player of the year, has been picked by Gatland despite being consistently overlooked by England since winning the last of his seven caps in 2018.

He is joined by fellow bolters and centres Bundee Aki of Ireland and Scotland’s Chris Harris, with Manu Tuilagi left out as he approaches his comeback from an Achilles injury.

However, Sexton is unable to force his way into the 37-man squad announced by Gatland, as are Jonathan Davies, Sam Underhill, Billy Vunipola and Josh Navidi.

Bundee Aki try earns dramatic victory for Connacht

With the sides tied at 14-14 heading into the last five minutes, Edoardo Padovani’s penalty looked to have secured a first win in the competition this season for the Italians.

However, Aki touched down following a driving maul at the death to secure an important win in Connacht’s bid to chase down Conference B leaders Munster.

The Westerners trailed their fellow Irish province by nine points heading to Italy, with Munster playing Cardiff Blues later on Friday before a meeting with Connacht at Thomond Park next weekend.

Bundee Aki hits beast mode on 100th cap as Connacht prove too strong for Ulster

Two crisply-created scores from John Porch after 11 minutes and Kieran Marmion after 22 had Connacht leading 14-6 at half-time, the westerners looking particularly sharp in their first game at Irish Rugby Football Union HQ since 1989.

Ulster, whose play-off qualification was confirmed by Edinburgh’s win over Glasgow Warriors on Saturday night, could only muster two John Cooney penalties until Jacob Stockdale crossed six minutes into the second half.

Bundee Aki handed three week ban

The New Zealand born player was sent off in the 47-5 Pool A win over the Samoans in Fukuoka on Saturday, for a high tackle on UJ Seuteni.

Aki faced a disciplinary hearing in Tokyo on Monday night, contesting the red card decision in a bid to be available for Saturday's World Cup quarter-final against New Zealand.

But the 29-year-old failed in that quest and was hit with a three-week ban, that would even rule him out of the World Cup final, should Ireland make it that far.

Aki hoping to achieve 'proud' moment against Samoa

The Ireland juggernaut centre admitted it would be a source of huge family pride should he get the nod to take on Samoa in Fukuoka on Saturday.

Aki was born in Auckland to Samoan parents and starred with the Chiefs before joining Connacht in 2014, committing to Ireland in both rugby and community.

The 29-year-old conjured a barnstorming performance when Ireland dispatched New Zealand 16-9 in Dublin in November, producing the perfect riposte to All Blacks coach Ian Foster who had questioned his residency qualification.