Former Wallabies prop Sekope Kepu has joined Christian Lealiifano as a foundation player at Moana Pasifika, for their inaugural Super Rugby Pacific campaign next year.
Christian Lealiifano is the first big name to formally commit to Moana Pasifika, the former Wallabies World Cup playmaker signing on for the side’s 2022 Super Rugby Pacific debut.
Lealiifano on Thursday officially put pen to paper for next season with an option to extend.
“As someone who was raised a proud Samoan, there is massive appeal in playing for a team that celebrates my heritage and my culture,” he said.
“I have been blessed with so many amazing opportunities over the course of my rugby career that I feel I can give back to a special community that has always supported me regardless of what colour jersey I was wearing.”
Moana Pasifika coach Aaron Mauger said Lealiifano’s experience and strong Samoan identity made him an obvious target choice for the new Super Rugby entity.
“We’re ecstatic that Christian has chosen to join our Moana Va’a for the journey ahead; he brings so many great qualities that will serve our team well,” Mauger said.
“Christian is one of those unbelievable players who oozes class as a footy player and a man.
“How he sees the game, how he plays the game and the level of professionalism and leadership he brings will play a huge part in our growth as a team and the development of the players around him.”
First debuting under Robbie Deans during the 2013 series against the touring British and Irish Lions, Lealiifano has made 26 appearances for the Wallabies following a stirring comeback from a life-threatening illness.
He was diagnosed with leukemia in 2016.
Remarkably, following a successful bone marrow transplant, the goalkicking five-eighth returned to Super Rugby in 2017 before heading overseas for a short stint in Ireland’s Pro14 and European Rugby Champions Cup with Ulster.
A key playmaker in Brumbies Super Rugby campaigns between 2008 and 2019, Leali’ifano has been plying his trade in Japan’s Top League with Toyota Shokki Shuttles and NTT Communications in recent years.
The 34-year-old has amassed 150 games and 963 points in Super Rugby.
In 2019, his fairytale return to top-level rugby was complete when he started at No.10 in the Wallabies side that put 47 points on the All Blacks in Perth.
That year, he earned his first selection to the Rugby World Cup in Japan, playing in four Test matches.