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Christian Lealiifano set for historic trans-Pacific move

By Paul Smith
Christian Lealiifano is set to join the new Pacific Island franchise (Photo by Tracey Nearmy/Getty Images)

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Wallabies fly half Christian Lealiifano will be back in Super Rugby next season according to reports emerging from Australia.

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The veteran playmaker is set to join newly-launched franchise Moana Pasifika where he will hook up with another prominent international midfielder in former All Black Aaron Mauger who is head coach of the Auckland-based Pacific Island outfit.

The Sydney Morning Herald believes the 26-times-capped Wallaby will next week be announced “as the club’s franchise star.”

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Michael Cheika on life as Wallabies coach
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Michael Cheika on life as Wallabies coach

Lealiifano previously appeared 150 times for the Brumbies between 2007 and 2019 and it is understood that Mauger faced competition from the Canberra-based side for Lealiifano’s signature.

Former Brumbies coach Dan McKellar believes the 34-year-old leukaemia survivor offers plenty to the newly-launched franchise.

“He’d be a great addition to the Pasifika side. He’s a proud Samoan man,” he said.

“A new club, having a leadership role and a mentoring role and establishing what that club stands for, obviously with his own strong ties with his Samoan and Pasifika background – he’s going to love that challenge.

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“He still has a lot to offer, there’s no doubt. He’s a great captain, leads through his actions and he’ll have a real presence on that Pasifika group.”

“It’s good for the competition and it’s good for the young players that will be able to bounce ideas around and learn off someone like Christian Lealiifano.”

Lealiifano returned to the top of the sport at the 2019 World Cup after overcoming the leukaemia which struck in 2016.

After treatment he moved north to sample life in the (now) United Rugby Championship and Heineken Cup with Ulster, before returning to the Brumbies then eventually the Wallabies.

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Since last appearing for Australia in their Japan 2019 quarter-final defeat at the hands of England, Lealiifano has plied his trade for Japanese Top League club NTT Communications Shining Arcs.

 

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