Christian Lealiifano set for Super Rugby finals return

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    Christian Lealiifano is poised to play his first Super Rugby game since being diagnosed with leukaemia almost a year ago in the Brumbies’ quarter-final against the Hurricanes in Canberra on Friday night.

    Coach Stephen Larkham said he had no qualms about throwing the Wallaby back into the mix in a heartwarming touch to the match despite sitting out the season due to his illness.

    Lealiifano was set to play two weeks ago against the Reds but his return was delayed when he injured his hamstring on the eve of the game.

    The 29-year-old only needed to get through their Monday afternoon training session to be named in the line-up against the defending champions.

    Larkham said he didn’t consider playing him as a gamble.

    “It would be a gamble if I thought he wasn’t right to play so we’ll wait and make that assessment after we see how he trains,” the coach said.

    “We’ll name the team Tuesday but the way he’s trained within the team over the last three months gives me a fair indication that he’s ready to play.”

    The Brumbies are set to bolster their ranks after resting 10 players for the last game of the regular season.

    Rory Arnold (shoulder) and Chris Alcock (thigh) are expected to be fit while Sam Carter, Joe Powell, Tevita Kuridrani and Allan Alaalatoa will all be fresh after having a week off.

    Larkham said his preference would have been to play the Chiefs, despite losing to them in the last regular round 28-10.

    He believed the Hurricanes had taken the front-running as the best New Zealand team after handing the Crusaders their first loss of the season on Saturday.

    The Brumbies haven’t beaten a New Zealand team since they toppled the Hurricanes in the opening round of the season last year.

    But Larkham said that counted for little.

    “It’s as new season and everything before is irrelevant,” he said.

    “We’re pretty happy with the way we’ve prepared for this final.

    “It’s do or die irrespective of how you’ve gone through the season it all comes down to this game.”

    © AAP 2018

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    The Crowd Says (18)

    • July 17th 2017 @ 5:15pm
      Bfc said | July 17th 2017 @ 5:15pm | ! Report

      A bloody positive news story for Oz rugby, and let’s face it we haven’t had many…”welcome back LiLo!”.

    • July 17th 2017 @ 6:53pm
      Fionn said | July 17th 2017 @ 6:53pm | ! Report

      Heartwarming news.

      Win or lose, this will bring happiness to many of us Brumbies fans (and I imagine a lot of other rugby fans also).

      • July 17th 2017 @ 7:03pm
        Bfc said | July 17th 2017 @ 7:03pm | ! Report

        Spot on…

    • Roar Rookie

      July 17th 2017 @ 7:29pm
      Huw Tindall said | July 17th 2017 @ 7:29pm | ! Report

      Isn’t there a requirement for a player to play a minimum number of regular season games before they can play finals rugby?

      • Roar Guru

        July 17th 2017 @ 10:34pm
        Joey Johns said | July 17th 2017 @ 10:34pm | ! Report

        He’s been contracted the entire season, so I don’t see an issue.

      • Roar Guru

        July 18th 2017 @ 9:36am
        John R said | July 18th 2017 @ 9:36am | ! Report

        I thought that was the case too. There was a story about Kurtley coming back to the Tahs, with the caveat that he wouldn’t be eligible for finals etc etc.

        Not sure if there’s restrictions if you’d plied your trade overseas during the season, or if there has been a special dispensation, considering CLL cicumstances?

        Either way, it’s bloody good to see!

    • July 17th 2017 @ 7:48pm
      Jock Cornet said | July 17th 2017 @ 7:48pm | ! Report

      Good luck , haven’t played a game and your first game will be the Hurricanes. Talk about being thrown in the deep end. I expect a shocker but good wishes.

      • July 18th 2017 @ 4:33pm
        Jez said | July 18th 2017 @ 4:33pm | ! Report

        Yep thrown in the deep end, finals Game, hurricanes and first run of the year at Super Rugby level. I am a Brumbies fan but, on this year’s form, Brumbies are likely to lose. The NZ teams have all been far better than the Aus teams.

        I still don’t think CLL will have a shocker. CLL is a class player and leaving him out certainly would not have made the side stronger. CLL being there is testament to the hard work he has done to get back to the level required for selection.

        While he may not play as well as he was when diagnosed last year while clearly the best Australian 10 I doubt he will embarrass himself on the pitch.

        Good on ya CLL. Can’t wait to see you play again!

    • July 17th 2017 @ 9:36pm
      Sam said | July 17th 2017 @ 9:36pm | ! Report

      Best of luck Christian, what ever the result on the field it’s great to see you back.

    • July 17th 2017 @ 11:26pm
      Rhys Bosley said | July 17th 2017 @ 11:26pm | ! Report

      Good stuff, CL is such a nice man an under rated player, I’ll be cheering him and the Brumbies on. I hope they start him at 12, he is a strong defender and his running game is sorely needed. I reckon he could get around Laumape with that deceptive little change of direction of his.

      Apparently he did well with his goal kicking in Singapore too, could be an asset.

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