Bundee Aki insists there is no tension between him and his rivals for an Ireland starting jersey.

With Garry Ringrose a favourite of head coach Andy Farrell at second centre, the 12 shirt debate has revolved around Aki’s battle with former Connacht team-mate Robbie Henshaw.

This season it’s the New Zealander who has had the upper hand, starting against Wales (when Henshaw was injured), France and England, with Henshaw getting the nod against Italy.

With all three fighting fit ahead of tomorrow’s finale against Scotland, once again Aki gets the nod and the Leinster back, who started all three Lions Tests last summer, must make do with an appearance off the bench, from where he made a telling impact in the 32-15 victory over England last Saturday.

"Definitely [we’re still friends]," said the 31-year-old.

"Me and Robbie and Garry and James Hume, we all have a healthy relationship.

"Everyone puts their hands up every week to play and it’s a good healthy competition going on.

"Me and Robbie are just as close as we’ve ever been. We pick off each other and we help each other out, the same with Garry and James.

"Nothing has changed, we’re just doing what’s best for the team and doing what’s best for each other and whoever gets picked in the team you’re doing the best that you can to help make sure that you’re prepared properly.

Garry Ringrose and James Hume (r) at Ireland training

"I know for a fact that if it was the other way around, I’d do the same Robbie and I know for sure that Robbie has been doing the same for me. So it’s nothing strange, everything has been good."

Henshaw has a more rounded game while Aki is better known for his more direct style of play. However, the former Chiefs player insists he is oblivious to outside commentary about their pros and cons.

"I don't see or read anything," he says.

"It's what you guys say to me. That's all it is. I've got nothing against it. You guys asked a question about my passing game and I said I've always got it.

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"I'm playing to what's best for the team and doing what's best for the team. If I need to run, I need to run. If I need to pass, I need to pass. If I need to kick, I will kick.

"I think I’ve alluded to it before, I’m just trying to do the right thing for the team and I’ve always had a passing game.

"People have their criticisms and criticise how I play, but it’s just the way I play and try and do what’s right for the team, and what’s best for the team at the time."

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