Bundee Aki and Ultan Dillane boost Connacht by signing contract extensions

Bundee Aki and Ultan Dillane with Connacht coach Pat Lam on Tuesday
The decisions of Aki and Dillane to stay with Connacht is a huge boost for coach Pat Lam

Connacht's star centre Bundee Aki has signed a contract extension which will keep him at the Irish province until 2020 while lock Ultan Dillane has also agreed a new deal with the club.

Aki played a vital role in Connacht's remarkable Pro12 triumph last season and was named Pro12 player of the year.

The New Zealand native, 26, joined Connacht in 2014 and he will become Irish-qualified next year.

"This place has become home to me and my family now," said Aki on Tuesday.

"The last two years with Connacht Rugby have been incredible.

"I am proud to be part of this Connacht team and I'm excited to see what we can achieve together," added Auckland-born Aki, who made 26 Super Rugby appearances for the Chiefs before joining the Irish club.

Aki linked with Munster and Bordeaux

Aki has been linked with both Munster and Bordeaux in recent months and his decision to commit his future to Connacht is a massive boost to coach Pat Lam after he lost the services of influential trio Robbie Henshaw, Aly Muldowney and AJ MacGinty in the summer.

County Kerry-born second row Dillane, 22, made his Ireland debut against England last February less than a year after graduating from Connacht's Academy.

The ball-carrying lock has gone on to make four further Ireland appearances, including two test outings against South Africa in the summer.

Dillane was also believed to be a target for Munster and his decision to commit to the Galway-based side until the summer of 2019 has also delighted Lam.

"There is no doubt that they had options in terms of where they could play," said the Connacht coach of the duo.

"But I believe it is a massive statement about what we are doing here as a team and an organisation that they were both so determined to continue to play their part."

After shipping heavy home defeats against Glasgow and the Ospreys as they started the defence of their Pro12 title with three losses, Connacht have bounded back with four straight wins including a European Champions Cup win over Toulouse.