Forwards coach Simon Easterby believes that Bundee Aki can still play a key role for Ireland ahead of their World Cup quarter-final clash against New Zealand on Saturday (LIVE on eir sport 1 from 10.30am) even though he is suspended.
The Connacht centre was handed a three-game ban following his first-half dismissal for a dangerous tackle in Ireland’s 47-5 win over Samoa last Saturday.
As it stands, he will miss the remainder of the tournament but can still train fully with the squad.
A decision on a potential appeal against the ban won’t be taken until the final written judgment is received.
"It can be massive that he's still able to train," Easterby said.
"He's a good trainer anyway, but he'll be focused on doing everything he can now.
"There's no better man for knowing how the Kiwis work and how they might be approaching this. He's a big part of this group and he'll continue to be part of it no matter the outcome."
Easterby revealed that Aki was “devastated” following his dismissal and has the full support of the entire squad.
"We're disappointed because Bundee is a big part of the squad, so we're disappointed for him,” he added.
"He's nowhere near a dirty player. He was sanctioned on the day, and we lost him for a large chunk of the game.
"We're lucky that we have a real good group of players in that midfield, but he's one of those and we'd be disappointed if we don't get to use him.
"He was really upset about the decision and rightfully so.
"But until we've seen the report and know exactly how they came to that decision, we'll probably have to wait until we see that before we make a call."
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