Joe Schmidt has hit back at a not-so-subtle dig by All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster, defending star midfielder Bundee Aki's right to play for Ireland.

Auckland-born Aki spent a few seasons plying his trade for Counties-Manukau and the Chiefs, before leaving Kiwi shores for the Emerald Isle in 2014.

Last year he made his test debut for Ireland, qualifying to play for the nation with residency.

Earlier in the week, Foster had a bit of fun with Aki's origin, with the 28-year-old the second Kiwi expat the All Blacks will play in as many weeks after coming up against Brad Shields' England side last weekend.


"You have moulded him into an Irishman, he looks like an Irishman now doesn't he?" Foster said. "There will be a couple of our guys who have probably played with him and know him personally but we are kind of getting used to that."

Schmidt, himself born in New Zealand, insisted Aki had long proved where his loyalties lie ahead of his 12th test appearance.

"I think Bundee has probably demonstrated through the last year, he made his debut against South Africa last year in this particular section of the year. And I think he won personality of the year.

"That's the nature of Bundee and his popularity. Because everybody knows he's going to give 100 per cent.

"It's like asking was Jerome Kaino 100 per cent ready to play for the All Blacks, because he was born in a foreign country. Or Chris Masoe, or Joe Rokocoko, or any of those guys.

"So having coached all those guys, they were very ready to play for the All Blacks. Bundee Aki is very ready to play for us in this weekend's fixture."

Ireland have beaten the All Blacks just once in 30 attempts since 1905, which came in Chicago in 2016. Schmidt joked about the win, and the side's desire to secure the win on home soil.

"It's always an achievement to beat the All Blacks, that's why we limit ourselves to once every 115 years because we don't want to get carried away with things," Schmidt said.


"When they first arrived [in Ireland] in 1905, they were incredibly tough to knock over and I don't think they've changed too much.

"The depth of their experience, it is formidable and it would be a huge feather in these players' cap if they could topple them on Saturday."