Moana Pasifika has secured one of the most sought-after rugby talents in trans-Tasman professional rugby, with Wallaby International Christian Leali’ifano signing with the new club for its debut season in Super Rugby Pacific 2022.
New Zealand-born, Australia-raised Leali’ifano is one of the first players to pledge to Moana Pasifika, proving the strength of the team’s appeal to players of Pasifika descent. He has signed with the club for the 2022 season with the option to extend.
The 26-Test Australian first-five-eighth has an impressive career total of 171 points amassed with the Australian national side between 2013 and 2019, including a Rugby World Cup campaign.
In recent years, the 34-year-old has been plying his trade in Japan’s top league with Toyota Shokki Shuttles (2018) and NTT Communications (2019 & 2020).
A key playmaker in Brumbies Super Rugby campaigns between 2008 and 2019, Leali’ifano has amassed a huge 150 Super Rugby appearances with 963 points to his name. In 2016, the rugby community was rocked by the news he had been diagnosed with leukemia. Remarkably, following a successful bone marrow transplant, he returned to Super Rugby in 2017 before heading overseas for a short stint in Ireland’s Pro14 and European Rugby Champions Cup with Ulster.
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 said Leali’ifano’s experience and strong Samoan identity made 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.
“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,” Mauger said.
Christian Leali’ifano said he was 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.
“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,” he said.
Leali’ifano will make the move to New Zealand when he joins the squad for assembly in December.
Christian Pharoah Leali’ifano career
Born 24 September 1987, Auckland
2007, 2014-2015 Canberra Vikings
2007-2019 Brumbies (debut v Crusaders 2008)
2016-2017 Suntory Sungoliath
2017-2018 Ulster (on loan)
2018 Toyota Shokki Shuttles
2019-2020 NTT Communications
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