Connacht head coach Andy Friend believes the contract negotiations to keep Bundee Aki at Connacht and indeed Irish rugby are 'getting closer' to a positive resolution.

The 29-year-old, who joined Connacht in 2014 and was instrumental in the Pro 14 title victory two years later, has been linked with a big money move away from the Sportsground.

Aki’s current deal runs out in the summer and it is believed the IRFU are in discussions with making the centre a central contract offer, which would in turn free up more finance for Connacht’s budget.

"I believe that every day it is getting closer," Friend told reporters. "There is certainly a lot of positivity coming out of Bundee regarding his energy towards Connacht and our energy towards him."

Having signed up Kieran Marmion on a three-year deal after the scrum-half was linked away from Galway, Connacht will be desperately hoping to extend Aki’s time at the Sportsground.

The 21-cap Ireland international was courted by Munster in 2016, and publicly voiced his anger that year after the departure of head coach Pat Lam shortly after his own contract extension.

A number of French clubs are believed to have expressed an interest in acquiring Aki’s services, while a lucrative move to Japan has also been touted.

Friend however says the Connacht talisman, who missed last weekend’s Champions Cup defeat away to Toulouse, has a desire to remain in situ.

"He is very passionate towards Connacht and what we are doing there. He is a big part of the bus moving forward and every day we get closer.

"Fingers crossed the decision is made in the right way."