Lealiifano pushed himself beyond breaking: Larkham

Super Rugby
by Sam Phillips

In his quest to get back on the paddock, Christian Lealiifano pushed himself beyond breaking point.

Coach Stephen Larkham helped guide him through the darkest of days, as the Brumbies co-captain fought back from a leukaemia diagnosis 11 months ago to be named on the bench ahead of the quarter final clash with the Hurricanes.

"It's a very special moment for the team and for Christian," Larkham said.

"He has worked very hard to get back to this point.

"Christian went through his paces yesterday and got through it quite nicely.Christian Lealiifano's comeback story is simply inspiring. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart Walmsley"He's been training for the last three months and he has been one of the standout trainers so now he is ready to go."

Lealiifano was set to return against the Reds at Suncorp Stadium a fortnight ago but a hamstring strain has allowed him to return on a more fitting stage, his home deck at GIO Stadium.

"This is in front of the people that have supported him through this long journey and I think it's very fitting that he's out there this weekend," Larkham said.

"I think I've seen him build himself back up and seen him go through some really difficult times.

"I've seen him push himself beyond breaking, at times, to get right for this.

"It's an emotional journey but now, there is good focus among the team."Stephen Larkham has backed Lealiifano every step of the way. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart WalmsleyLarkham detailed the meticulous approach the Brumbies have followed in getting Lealiifano back on the pitch.

"I was always very optimistic, that's kind of my nature," he said.

"We sat down after his diagnosis and mapped out a path - a rough path - because we knew that there were gonna be setbacks along the way.

"My goal, I guess, was to get both Christian and Tomas (Cubelli) back for the finals."

Larkham said the coaching staff had considered starting the 28-year-old but decided to opt for the combinations that have been built throughout the year.The last time they met, the Hurricanes cruised home in the second half. Photo: Getty ImagesOne man that will be starting is fellow co-captain Sam Carter, who said the players would lift as soon as Lealiifano entered the fray.

"It's an awesome moment for the team, for Brumbies rugby and for himself," Carter said.

"He has put in a lot of work over the past year and I don't think people have seen how hard he has worked to get to the position he is in now."

The skipper also reflected on the last time these two teams met, a strange match in which the Brumbies came out firing to open up a half time lead before being thumped late in the piece.

"They're dangerous but as we learnt over there in Napier, we were up 21-14 at half time, playing some really good footy and then we didn't play at the right end of the field and gave them too many opportunities in our own half," he said.

"If you do that against a team like the Hurricanes they can really capitalise and hurt you."

The Brumbies take on the Hurricanes at GIO Stadium on Friday night, kicking off at 7:35pm AEST, broadcast LIVE on FOX SPORTS.

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