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Coach Joe Schmidt has welcomed Kiwi import Bundee Aki’s return to Ireland’s midfield for the Rugby World Cup clash with Russia.
Aki is one of 11 changes made to the team which lost 19-12 to Japan in last Saturday’s sensational upset in Shizuoka with star playmaker Jonathan Sexton returning as captain.
The former Chiefs star missed the Japan game after suffering a head knock which forced him off the field in the opening quarter of Ireland’s 27-3 win over Scotland.
Aki’s return to fitness is a welcome boost for Ireland’s injury-depleted midfield division.
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Robbie Henshaw has yet to play at the World Cup after nursing a hamstring injury and Chris Farrell, who took over from Aki, was concussed in the Japan game.
Schmidt told reporters in Kobe on Tuesday that it was good to have Aki back with “a fair bit of bounce about him” to partner Garry Ringrose.
“Bundee and Garry have a really good midfield relationship so it works out hopefully that that will still be productive for us.”
Aki was impressive in his early work against S
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