Saturday 25 January 2020

Ulster confirm the capture of Australian flyhalf and leukemia survivor Christian Lealiifiano

Christian Lealiifano
Christian Lealiifano Newsdesk Newsdesk

Ulster have confirmed the arrival of Australia flyhalf Christian Lealiifano on a five-month deal.

The province have been in search of a new number 10 since Paddy Jackson was stood down pending the conclusion of legal proceedings.

Jackson is expected to appear in court this week over the alleged rape of a woman on June 28, 2016.

He is accused of two charges - raping the woman when he "did not reasonably believe that she so consented" to sex, and sexual assault by penetration. His Ulster and Ireland teammate Stuart Olding is charged with two counts of rape.

They deny the allegations.

Former Ulster star Blane McIlroy, of Royal Lodge Road, in south Belfast, has been charged with exposing himself to cause "alarm or distress" on that date.

Former UCD player Rory Harrison (25), of Manse Road, Castlereagh, is facing two charges of perverting the course of justice between June 27 and July 1 of last year by allegedly making a false witness statement to police. He is also accused of withholding evidence.

The signing of Lealiifano will come as a boost to Ulster before the start of the Guinness Pro14. Lealiifano's contract will run until January 22 2018, following the conclusion of the Champions Cup pool stages. He will then return to the Brumbies for the start of the Super Rugby season.

The Auckland-born star made his debut for the Canberra-based franchise back in 2008 and earned his first international cap in the 2013 Test series against the British and Irish Lions. He has played 19 times for the Wallabies, with his last appearance coming against England in June last year.

The 29-year-old was diagnosed with leukaemia 12 months ago and he has since undertaken the necessary treatment. He made a remarkable return to action for the Brumbies in June, having been named as co-captain by Head Coach Stephen Larkham - an indication of how highly regarded he is.

Ahead of his arrival, Christian said: "I'd like to thank the Brumbies for allowing me to do this stint abroad. I'm really excited to be joining up with Ulster Rugby and I'm looking forward to getting out there in front of the supporters at Kingspan Stadium. I can't wait to experience the rugby and the culture in Belfast.”

Les Kiss, Director of Rugby, was delighted to welcome Lealiifano on board: "This is a massive boost for us as we approach the start of the season. It was paramount that we signed an experienced player to give us another option at flyhalf and this is a fantastic solution for us.

"Christian has the playing talent, the leadership ability and the personality to make a big impact here. He has overcome significant challenges in his career and that is testament to his bravery and strong character.

"He's a proven leader and we're excited by the influence that he'll have on our young flyhalves Peter Nelson, Brett Herron, Johnny McPhillips and Callum Smith. We also have two exciting players in our Academy, Michael Lowry and Angus Curtis, who will also have a fantastic opportunity to learn from Christian.

"From speaking to Christian, I know that he is very excited by the challenge and is looking forward to joining up with us soon.”

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