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Christian Leali’ifano will arrive in New Zealand in November after securing a MIQ spot within the second on-line lottery.
Christian Leali’ifano was again in Canberra after a few years in Japan, speaking to his beloved Brumbies a couple of potential return to the Australian franchise for Super Rugby Pacific in 2022.
Then, Moana Pasifika director of rugby Kevin Senio acquired in contact with an intriguing supply for the Auckland-born playmaker: flip down the “easy option” of the Brumbies, come to New Zealand and signify your Samoan heritage in Super Rugby.
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It was an emotional pitch, and it hit dwelling for Leali’ifano. He considered his dad and mom and grandparents. And, particularly, he considered his late father who handed away in 2006, simply earlier than Leali’ifano achieved his dream of changing into knowledgeable rugby participant.
“I think, to be able to represent people that got me to where I am now is going to be pretty special,” Leali’ifano advised Stuff on Thursday. “I wish my dad was still living today to see this team. He’d be all over it. I’m sure he’d be really proud that I’m going to be involved with something that’s going to have a lot of meaning and purpose.
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“He always wanted me to chase my foot dream. Unfortunately, he passed away a couple of years before my debut for the Brumbies. I carry him with me. He’s with me every day.”
Leali’ifano, 34, was confirmed as Moana Pasifika’s first official signing on Thursday, on a one-year deal with an option for a second year.
He’ll arrive in New Zealand in November after winning an MIQ spot in the second round of the online lottery (his first attempt failed), and join up with his new teammates in December.
He readily admits it was “tough” to turn down the Brumbies. He is currently in Canberra, where family and friends have jokingly told him that he’s not allowed to play against the Brumbies next year, especially if the game is in the Australian capital.
Leali’ifano is also modest enough to express a bit of trepidation about what he has signed up for. Having watched Super Rugby Trans Tasman from Japan, he knows the New Zealand teams are brutal and unforgiving.
But he’s also a 26-test Wallaby who says he has come back from Japan mentally and physically refreshed.
“I’m not as ripped as Quade [Cooper], he’s in pretty good shape that fella,” Leali’ifano stated of the Wallabies No 10 who returned to the take a look at area after a number of years in Japan.
“But the body’s holding up OK. Japan was nice, to be able to play that fast style of footy, and not as physical, although it is getting that way now.
“They are progressing to a really high standard of rugby…I haven’t played since last year [due to Covid-19] so I’m feeling pretty refreshed and excited to get into the new season.”
Moana Pasifika coach Aaron Mauger will invariably tap into Leali’ifano’s experience as he builds a largely inexperienced squad around some key individuals.
Leali’ifano said the coach was keen to use his knowledge of different systems and different coaching styles to accelerate the development of those around him.
That role would be similar to the one Cooper is playing at the Wallabies, where the 33-year-old is using his game sense to bring others into the game, and Leali’ifano admits “you never say never” when it comes to a potential Wallabies recall of his own.
“If you’re good enough and you’re playing well enough, I guess I wouldn’t turn it down, but it’s not a priority,” he said.
“If Dave Rennie’s happy with what he’s seeing you never know. Obviously it’s positive when he’s picking Quade and Samu [Kerevi] and some other guys from Europe.
“He’s obviously looking around at some other talent, and you wouldn’t say no. To represent your country is always a massive feat.”.
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