Ulster bring in Australia fly half Lealifano as short term cover for Jackson

Ulster have signed Australia fly-half Christian Lealiifano on a five-month deal as cover for Paddy Jackson.

Lealiifano has made a full recovery since being diagnosed with leukaemia 12 months ago, already returning to action with Super Rugby outfit the Brumbies.

The 29-year-old will provide short-term cover for Ulster while Ireland fly-half Jackson remains stood down from action pending legal proceedings.

Christian Lealiifano tackles Johnaton Sexton back in 2013.

Rugby director Less Kiss hailed Ulster's coup in recruiting the 19-cap playmaker, who will be with the Irish province until January 22.

"This is a massive boost for us as we approach the start of the season," said Ulster boss Kiss.

"It was paramount that we signed an experienced player to give us another option at fly-half and this is a fantastic solution for us.

"Christian has the playing talent, the leadership ability and the personality to make a big impact here. He has overcome significant challenges in his career and that is testament to his bravery and strong character.

"He's a proven leader and we're excited by the influence that he'll have on our young fly-halves Peter Nelson, Brett Herron, Johnny McPhillips and Callum Smith.

"We also have two exciting players in our academy, Michael Lowry and Angus Curtis, who will also have a fantastic opportunity to learn from Christian.

"From speaking to Christian, I know that he is very excited by the challenge and is looking forward to joining up with us soon."

Lealiifano will be with Ulster until the end of the Champions Cup pool stages, and will return to the Brumbies in time for the next Super Rugby season.

The Auckland-born inside back made his Test debut in 2013, having broken through with the Brumbies in 2008.

Lealiifano paid tribute to the Brumbies not only for helping him with his remarkable recovery from illness, but also for allowing him this sabbatical with Ulster.

"I'd like to thank the Brumbies for allowing me to do this stint abroad," said Lealiifano.

"I'm really excited to be joining up with Ulster Rugby and I'm looking forward to getting out there in front of the supporters at Kingspan Stadium.

"I can't wait to experience the rugby and the culture in Belfast."

AP


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