Rugby Union


Christian Lealiifano heads back to the Canberra Vikings to push his claims for Wallabies recall

From the Wallabies to the Canberra Vikings. Christian Lealiifano will use his National Rugby Championship cameo to show Test coach Ewen McKenzie he is ready to be injected back into the international arena.

But after a frustrating Super Rugby campaign, the ACT Brumbiesstar has vowed not to  get "bogged down" by potential Wallabies selection and his only focus was to enjoy rugby.

Lealiifano will rub shoulders with part-time players who have put their careers as tradies, teachers and public servants on hold to play for the Vikings in their inaugural NRC match against the Perth Spirit on Saturday.

Viking Park is a long way from the Test arena as the Wallabies attempt to end a 28-year hoodoo against the All Blacks at Eden Park, Auckland, but it's also the perfect launching pad for Lealiifano to get game time.

And the key to recapturing his best form is simple: "I'm not going to overplay my hand. I'm not going to push too much, all I can do is enjoy my footy.

"A lot of people get bogged down on missing out on [Wallabies] selection, but you've got to put it into perspective and enjoy what you're doing.


"It's frustrating when you're injured; my year was stop-start and it's easy to get sad ... if you miss out. But I'm taking a positive perspective and just enjoy it.

"I'm not going to take it for granted. There are guys like [David Pocock], Siliva Siliva and Steve Moore who are injured and can't get out there, so I'm really excited to play."

Lealiifano is the only survivor from the Vikings' former existence in the defunct Australian Rugby Championship in 2007.

The ARC lost almost $5 million in its only season, but the third-tier format has been reinvented under the NRC banner. Lealiifano said Australian rugby needed it to succeed.

In just one season, the ARC produced more than 70 Super Rugby players and more than 30 future Wallabies.

Lealiifano believes the NRC can have the same effect and will be bolstered by fringe Wallabies trying to win a place in McKenzie's Test squad.

"I felt like the ARC was a massive stepping stone in my career ... it didn't work out but I'm excited to have it back," he said.

"I think we've missed it Wallabies guys come back to play some rugby again. It's going to be positive for all the boys trying to push for a spot in the Test team.

"It's a chance to get some touches, get some rhythm and work out the lungs and testing your skills under pressure."

Lealiifano trained with the Vikings for the first time on Thursday night after being released from Wallabies camp.

A year ago he was considered the best goalkicker in Australian rugby and had all but cemented his place as McKenzie's inside-centre.

But Brumbies teammate Matt Toomua has stepped into the role and Lealiifano struggled to rediscover his kicking mojo after having ankle surgery at the end of last year.

"The ankle isn't giving me too much grief now. I felt like I hit good form at the end of the season but then we were knocked out [of the Super Rugby finals]. I'm still looking to improve areas where I can get better.

"By the time I got into the groove, the season finished. Hopefully I can just keep going with that now."

The Vikings are a mix of 10 Brumbies-contracted players and the best from Canberra's first-grade competition.


Saturday: Canberra Vikings v Perth Spirit, at Viking Park, 2.30pm. Tickets available at the gate.