Rugby Union


Christian Lealiifano says Wallabies jersey still No.1 for players

ACT Brumbies centre Christian Lealiifano says the Wallabies jersey is still the "driving factor" for Australian players and trumps rich European offers, adding that missing Test selection has ignited his international determination.

Lealiifano will return to Canberra next week to restart the club's Super Rugby finals bid and is confident he will be able to slot straight back into the line-up despite not playing for almost a month.

Lealiifano has been in camp with the Wallabies, but did not get the chance to play a Test against France, despite signing a new ARU deal last month.

The 26-year-old turned down lucrative overseas opportunities, instead aiming for the World Cup next year and success with the Brumbies.

But cashed-up French clubs are still trying to poach Australia's best talent, and Israel Folau is a target.

"The European offers are hard to turn down," Lealiifano said.


"But being in this Wallabies set-up again, and being in my set-up [just outside the game-day squad] you definitely don't take the Wallabies jersey for granted.

"It's still a driving factor for a lot of the boys and that's the focus ... I've got the challenge of making sure I'm ready as much as I can so that if I get an opportunity I'm ready to go."

Folau looms as one of the biggest threats to the Brumbies' hopes of making the finals in consecutive years.

The former NRL and AFL player has made a successful transition to rugby and has been linked to a move to France after the World Cup next year.

Folau is also leading the NSW Waratahs' championship hopes and the Brumbies will need to nullify his influence in their June 28 clash to keep their play-off ambitions alive.

"For the moment, it's about admiring him [in the Wallabies] and then next week we'll try to figure out how to stop him," Lealiifano said.

"We haven't really picked his brain or thought about [Super Rugby] next week."

Lealiifano was a Wallabies regular last season, but Brumbies teammate Matt Toomua has edged ahead in the battle for the Test No.12 jersey.

The duo will team up as the Brumbies' flyhalf-inside centre combination when they return to the capital for the last two games of the Super Rugby season.

The Brumbies need to win games against the Waratahs and Western Force on July 11 to guarantee a play-off berth for the second year in a row.

Despite not being picked in the Test series against France, Lealiifano has used his time in Wallabies camp to fine-tune his game and to rediscover his goal-kicking mojo.

He had a big part in the Brumbies' success last season, but has struggled to find the same form this year.

"I'm just waiting and doing all the things I can to be ready for the Brumbies and Wallabies," Lealiifano said.

"It is challenging mentally [when you're in a squad but not playing], but it's a challenge I enjoy. I haven't been in this situation before.

"You learn things, I've been able to pick up a few extra things on kicking and getting as much as I can out of this time, so I'm working on different areas in my game."