New guitarist Bundee Aki has vowed that the greatest pressures will help Ireland strike the right World Cup chords.
Connacht centre Aki has flourished in Ireland colours, and now the 21-cap star is determined to crank through the levels to push Joe Schmidt’s men back to their very best.
The 29-year-old battering ram midfielder is learning the guitar off the field, but Ireland will have the fine tune their efforts on the pitch after their shock 19-12 loss to Japan last time out.
Aki believes Ireland can hit back and reach the quarter-finals – starting with a statement performance and victory in Thursday’s clash against Russia in Kobe.
“Obviously I think everyone had a setback there, but as a team we always focus on ourselves and what’s in the circle,” said Aki, running the rule over the loss to Japan.
“That’s the beauty of this team: when the pressure’s on and everybody’s putting us down, we step up to the plate.
“And I think we’ll try to get more consistent performances coming forward.
“We’ve got two hard games coming up. So we’ve just got to worry about ourselves and make sure we do what we need to do to get the results.”
Aki is back at inside centre for Ireland’s clash with the muscular Russians, where victory would push head coach Schmidt’s men back into the ascendancy in Pool A.
The Auckland-born powerhouse will pair up with Garry Ringrose in the centres against Russia, and revealed his pride at that partnership.
Ringrose will play his third game in 11 days at the World Cup, with Chris Farrell out through concussion and Robbie Henshaw not yet over his hamstring problem.
Aki believes that hectic schedule will prove no problem for the classy Ringrose.
“I didn’t think Garry’s form had dropped personally,” said Aki.
“He’s been playing unbelievably well; he’s a world-class player and I’m privileged to play alongside him.
“He doesn’t look like he’s off the beat, and I’m sure he can step up whenever he’s given the chance.
“I don’t know he’s had a dip, he’s been brilliant for us and for the squad.”
Touring always presents top teams with challenges on how to exploit down time to refresh weary limbs and minds, and escape rugby’s obvious rigours.
Aki has opted to pick up the guitar as a new hobby, but he revealed himself as not the only man in the Ireland camp with musical talent.
“I’m no singer. The guitarist in the team is Rhys (Ruddock),” said Aki.
“You’d be surprised how talented some of the boys in the squad are.
“Our doctor is a very good piano player, Jordan Larmour is a good guitarist and Tadhg Furlong fancies himself as a good singer. We could form a band.”