Brumbies flyhalf Christian Lealiifano has agreed a short term deal to play for Irish club Ulster before the 2018 Super Rugby season.
Lealiifano has agreed a five-month deal with Ulster in Ireland that will run until 22nd January 2018, following the conclusion of the Champions Cup pool stages. He will then return to the Brumbies for the start of the Super Rugby season.
Lealiifano, who was diagnosed with leukaemia less than a year ago, and undertook a bone marrow transplant in October 2016, was back on a rugby field for the first time in July when he was named as a replacement in the Brumbies Austbrokers Canberra Cup win in Singapore.
Playing just over twenty minutes in the 61-14 win over the Asia Pacific Dragons, the fly-half managed to land five conversions and looked sharp in attack and robust in defence.
Continuing his recuperation with a forty-minute cameo from the bench in the Super Rugby Quarter Final against the Hurricanes at GIO Stadium, Lealiifano is setting his goal to return fully to Super Rugby in 2018.
The Auckland-born star made his debut for the Canberra-based franchise back in 2008 and earned his first international cap in the 2013 Test series against the British and Irish Lions. He has played 19 times for the Wallabies, with his last appearance coming against England in June last year.
The 29-year-old was diagnosed with leukaemia 12 months ago and he has since undertaken the necessary treatment. He made a remarkable return to action for the Brumbies in June, having been named as co-captain by Head Coach Stephen Larkham – an indication of how highly regarded he is.
Ahead of his arrival, Christian said:”I’d like to thank the Brumbies for allowing me to do this stint abroad. I’m really excited to be joining up with Ulster Rugby and I’m looking forward to getting out there in front of the supporters at Kingspan Stadium. I can’t wait to experience the rugby and the culture in Belfast.”
Les Kiss, Director of Rugby, was delighted to welcome Lealiifano on board:”This is a massive boost for us as we approach the start of the season. It was paramount that we signed an experienced player to give us another option at flyhalf and this is a fantastic solution for us.
“Christian has the playing talent, the leadership ability and the personality to make a big impact here. He has overcome significant challenges in his career and that is testament to his bravery and strong character.
“He’s a proven leader and we’re excited by the influence that he’ll have on our young flyhalves Peter Nelson, Brett Herron, Johnny McPhillips and Callum Smith. We also have two exciting players in our Academy, Michael Lowry and Angus Curtis, who will also have a fantastic opportunity to learn from Christian.
“From speaking to Christian, I know that he is very excited by the challenge and is looking forward to joining up with us soon.”
Operations Director, Bryn Cunningham, added:”The recruitment market is constantly shifting, with players’ availability changing very quickly. Christian quickly emerged as our number one target and we’re delighted to have secured his services for the next five months.
“Due to the complexity of this arrangement, discussions were ongoing for some time and there was a significant amount of paperwork involved, so we’re pleased to now be in a position to confirm that a deal has been completed.
“Everyone at Ulster Rugby is really looking forward to Christian’s arrival and I’ve no doubt that he’ll receive a warm welcome from our supporters.”