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Wallaby and former Ulster star Lealiifano to leave Brumbies for Japan

The out-half described the offer as ‘too good to turn down.’

Christian Lealiifano of the Brumbies.
Christian Lealiifano of the Brumbies.
Image: ROHAN THOMSON

WALLABY OUT-HALF AND inspirational cancer survivor Christian Lealiifano said Monday he will leave the ACT Brumbies at the end of the season for Japan after an offer that was “too hard to turn down”.

Lealiifano, the captain of the Canberra-based Super Rugby side, said he made the “really difficult decision” to leave the Brumbies after 12 years and 148 appearances.

“Dan [Brumbies coach Dan McKellar] sat down and offered me another contract extension and I had to look at that and I had to factor in all my goals for the next little while and think about my family,” Lealiifano told reporters.

“And then I got an offer from Japan as well and it was probably too hard to turn down with my young boy and my wife, and not getting any younger as well, so I thought it was time to think about them rather than myself.”

Lealiifano — who has had stints with Japanese Top League team Toyota Shokki and Irish side Ulster — is set to join Ichikawa-based NTT Communications.

The 31-year-old has been a key part of the Brumbies’ successful season and the team will host South Africa’s Sharks in the Super Rugby quarter-finals in Canberra on Saturday.

Lealiifano, who has played 19 Tests for the Wallabies, is in the frame for a World Cup spot in Japan later this year.

The move comes just two years after Lealiifano returned to playing rugby after he was diagnosed with leukaemia in 2016. He had a successful bone marrow transplant and entered remission in 2017.

McKellar praised Lealiifano for his contribution to the club, adding that he was sad to see him leave.

“You will not meet a more selfless person then Christian Lealiifano. To go through what he went through, and to come back and still find time to lead and care for those around him, to be there for his teammates, he’s an incredible person,” McKellar said in a statement.

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“He should be very proud of the legacy he leaves at the Brumbies.”

© – AFP 2019

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