Test return would be hard to top for Lealiifano

The Rugby Championship
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

A return to the Test arena would rank among Christian Lealiifano’s greatest career moments and that it was his undeniable form that propelled him into the Wallabies fold has only added to the flyhalf's sense of achievement.

Lealiifano’s journey through a public battle with Leukaemia and back into the Super Rugby arena has been well-documented and it is something that will forever be a part of his story.

Since he returned to rugby in 2017, Lealiifano has open about his desire to earn everything purely on merit and it is merit which has delivered him a shot at a Wallabies spot.

When announcing the Wallabies squad last week, coach Michael Cheika was quick to stress that Lealiifano’s selection was entirely based on his form for the Brumbies this year - music to the playmaker’s ears.

“It'd (a Test comeback) be right up there. It's something I never thought would happen again,” he said.

“Obviously, to even play footy, but to be back in the squad is something I'm really proud of and grateful as well, that they haven't picked me just because I'm back and healthy again, they've picked me, Cheik said, on form and the way I've been playing.


“I'm really proud of that, that it's not just a token selection, it's come off the back of some hard work and a lot of support in and around my family and my friends as well and teammates.”

Lealiifano last featured for the Wallabies back in the 2016 and said he felt the past three years, including stints in Japan and Ireland, had given him a greater perspective on rugby.

“Obviously, through your journey, your perspective changes on things and being able to try and find different ways to be better,” he said.

“I've found the composure and the control of what I've had throughout the last couple of seasons, playing in different competitions has helped me with that and hopefully that will help me in a Test arena as well.”

It hasn’t taken long for Lealiifano to make an impact on the Wallabies group even after just a week with the squad.

Rugby AU Director of Rugby Scott Johnson watched Lealiifano’s journey back to rugby with an acute knowledge of the horrific realities of Leukaemia, a disease to which he lost his first wife.


“It's a human story, I mean, that I take quite personal because my first wife passed away of the same disease so I understand that,” he said.

“I've taken his ride a little bit personal so I get that and I've watched him this year and he's played in big (games), he looks, he's been dominant in tackles, he's certainly the Christian of old where he's got a real presence on the field.

“He's done really well for the Brumbies this year and we're taking that into consideration, what's best for Christian, we're having a look because he's a valuable contributor both on and off the field in the squad.

“He's been a real pleasant surprise, it's nice to see him there.”

The Brumbies didn't have anything easy in Buenos Aires. Photo: Getty ImagesLealiifano’s leadership qualities are well-known and Johnson said having a player so widely respected across the squad was only a good thing.

“Dynamics are great, human dynamics, it's great,” he said.

“I’m a big believer in it, I think Cheik is too, it's nice to have him here, that's for sure.”

The Wallabies take on South Africa at Ellis Park, Johannesburg on Saturday July 20, kicking off at 5:05pm local, Sunday 1:05am AEST, LIVE on FOX SPORTS and Kayo.