Bundee Aki to leave Chiefs, signs for Connacht
Chiefs and Counties Manukau second five-eighth Bundee Aki will depart New Zealand after the NPC season.
The 24-year-old, who burst on to the All Blacks' radar last year, is understood to have signed a three-year deal with Pat Lam's Irish club Connacht.
Aki has been indentified as a "project player" and while eligable for Samoa, he hopes to eventually qualify for Ireland under residency rules.
This trend is expected to continue from the Celtic clubs in an effort to compete with the French riches.
Aki's exit will be keenly felt with depth in the midfield a concern.
He will be in good Kiwi company on the west coast of Ireland as the New Zealand contingent at Connacht grows. Last year former Chiefs captain Craig Clarke joined the Irish province to add more Kiwi grunt to the forwards alongside Nathan White and Rodney Ah You.
By far the weakest of Ireland's four provinces, in terms of funding and playing talent, Lam has turned around a season that looked to be headed in a wooden spoon direction.
The former Blues coach has managed to bring his team to a respectable mid-table position in the Rabo Pro 12, while also masterminding a stunning defeat of European aristocrats Toulouse on French soil in the Heineken Cup.