Wallabies dream keeping Christian in Canberra

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Brumbies back Christian Lealiifano isn’t ready to shut the door on his Wallabies career just yet.

Lealiifano turned down a number of European offers to extend his contract with the ACT Brumbies until 2018 and said the lure of a Wallabies return as a major factor in that decision.

The 28-year-old narrowly missed out on World Cup selection after a standout 2015 season and said he wasn’t ready to turn his back on Australian Rugby.

With teammate Matt Toomua heading to Leicester at the end of 2016 and former Queensland flyhalf Quade Cooper in France, Lealiifano could be in the national mix once more in 2016.

With just 16 Tests to his name, Lealiifano’s Wallabies career would be over if he opted to sign in Europe, a prospect that ultimately proved decisive.

“(There were) a lot of offers from Europe and the UK but ideally I’d love to stay here as long as I can,” he said.

“The hardest thing now is if I went to Europe I don’t have the 60-cap window where I could come back (to the Wallabies) and that was the deciding thing for me.

“I still think I have a lot more to give to Australian Rugby. That's the plan for the next couple of years."

Lealiifano said he was close to securing a deal with a Japanese Top League side, in an arrangement could give him the best of both worlds.

“I’m really happy that they’ve allowed me the flexibility to be able to go to Japan,” he said.

“I felt like I needed a bit of a change up without leaving the Brumbies full-time.”

Regardless of the way his Japanese deal plays out, Lealiifano said there was one clear priority in his Rugby decisions.

“I’ll still be available for the Wallabies and that comes first,” he said.

"Whenever that time finishes or if I don’t make the Wallabies then I’ll shoot over (to Japan) straight away.”

Lealiifano’s signature was a critical one for the Brumbies, who will farewell Toomua and captain Stephen Moore (Queensland) at the end of 2016.

With 101 Brumbies caps, Lealiifano will be one of the most experienced in the squad in 2017 and said he was confident the team would cope with the transition.

“It’s going to be different but I’m confident in the Rugby program here which is a big reason why I was staying and the culture here is fantastic," he said.

“You’re trying to keep players here as long as you can and if your Rugby program’s good then you’ve got every chance to do that."