Former Wallabies playmaker Christian Lealiifano has been confirmed as the first squad member of Moana Pasifika.
The 26-test veteran returns to Super Rugby after a two-year stint in Japan with the Shining Arcs. The 34-year-old made 150 appearances for the Brumbies from 2007-19 and made his test debut for Australia in the 2013 British and Irish Lions series.
Lealiifano overcame a lot personally as well, beating leukemia in 2017 and recovered from a serious knee injury in 2010 and a broken ankle in 2012.
The second-five eighth/first-five played 11 games for Waikato in the 2010 National Provincial Championship.
In 2019 his fairytale return to top level rugby was complete when he started at first-five 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.
Moana Pasifika coach Aaron Mauger says Lealiifano’s experience and strong Samoan identity makes him an obvious 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," Major says.
"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."
Lealiifano says he is itching to pull on the Moana Pasifika jersey and re-join the Super Rugby fray with the new team.
"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 says.
"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."
Leali’ifano will make the move to New Zealand when he joins the squad for assembly in December.