Cancer survivor Christian Lealiifano’s final season in Australia is being carefully managed by the Wallabies at the Rugby World Cup.
Strength and conditioning coach Brad Harrington revealed Lealiifano’s wellbeing is handled differently to the rest of the 31-man squad in Japan to cater for what his body has been through.
Having returned to rugby in late 2017 after taking a year out to undergo treatment for leukaemia, Lealiifano went from strength to strength with the Brumbies and was the busiest of any Australian player this season.
Remarkably, he started all 18 Super Rugby games and was subbed off late in just three of them, defying any doubts over his conditioning levels.
Harrington said Lealiifano was faster and stronger than before his cancer episode, which was a measure of his character.
However, Wallabies medical staff are vigilant over his wellbeing, allowing him greater recovery time from games, providing with more gym work and lighter training loads elsewhere.
“Obviously Christian’s a different case where we need to look at how he’s travelling with his health each week and manage him accordingly,” Harrington said.
“It’s just probably the intensity of the game takes more out of him and he’s getting older too, so we’ve got to manage our older athletes a little bit differently.
“That’s the sort of balancing act with him but it’s something that the Brumbies did really well this year and we’ve learned a fair bit off them.”
Lealiifano, who turned 32 last week, leaves for Japan following the tournament.
He farewelled Australia with a sublime final campaign for the Brumbies, playing his 150th game when they lost their semi-final to the Jaguares in Buenos Aires.
Lealiifano hasn’t found his best form since the stunning Bledisloe Cup win in Perth in August but remains in contention to reclaim the No.10 jersey after Bernard Foley struggled during Sunday’s loss to Wales.
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika and captain Michael Hooper were both left flummoxed after Australia’s loss to Wales:
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