Lealiifano's Ulster stint could bring luck of the Irish to Brumbies

Brumbies training on Monday afternoon.
Christian Lealiifano
Brumbies training on Monday afternoon. Christian Lealiifano
Christian Lealiifano with his wife Luga and son Jeremih before captain's run training on Thursday

Christian Lealiifano with his wife Luga and son Jeremih before captain's run training on Thursday

Sending Christian Lealiifano to Ireland is fast turning into the decision that could make the ACT Brumbies a Super Rugby title contender after the inspirational playmaker took another giant leap in his comeback.

Lealiifano was named man of the match in Ulster's massive win against Harlequins on Saturday morning Australian time, continuing his remarkable journey on the field after his battle with leukaemia.

The 30-year-old's form has been so good there has been speculation in Ireland the club is keen to make Lealiifano a long-term offer.

But Lealiifano has already committed to returning to Canberra in January to see out the final season of his Brumbies contract before weighing up his future.

He was the architect of Ulster's 52-24 triumph against Harlequins and has even taken the captaincy reins at times in the Pro 14 and European Champions Cup campaigns.

Lealiifano's last game in Ireland will likely be a clash against Wasps on January 19, giving him five weeks to prepare for the start of the Super Rugby season.

"Hopefully the [Ulster] boys go a long way in [the European Champions Cup], I've just got to keep adding value where I can and play my part. I'll just enjoy it for now," Lealiifano said in a post-match interview.

"It was a fantastic performance [against Harlequins], there were some good learnings for us as well. This is Europe ... they're all going to be close games no matter which side you roll out.

The Brumbies will be hoping Lealiifano carries his Irish form back to Australia to lead them into his 11th Super Rugby season.

He will play either flyhalf or inside centre, creating more competition in the chief playmaker roles after the Brumbies called on rookie Wharenui Hawera to play every game this year.

But the club will also have one eye on Lealiifano's long-term future and whether he will commit to another stint at the Brumbies or if he will be lured abroad.

He is one of several Brumbies who are off-contract at the end of next year, including Kyle Godwin and Henry Speight.

The lure of playing at the World Cup in 2019 will be a massive carrot to stay in Australia, but European and Japanese clubs are willing to offer massive deals to convince stars to move overseas.

When asked if he would stay at Ulster instead of returning to the Brumbies, Lealiifano told BBC Sport NI: I'm going to head back [to the Brumbies].

"The deal from the beginning was to come over on a six-month loan and play some rugby again and hopefully put Ulster in a good position before heading back.

"It's been really enjoyable but it would probably be wrong of me to stay on."

The Brumbies will finish their first pre-season training block on Friday. The squad's Wallabies representatives and David Pocock will return in January, with Lealiifano to follow at the end of the month.

This story Lealiifano's Ulster stint could bring luck of the Irish to Brumbies first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.