Christian Lealiifano on verge of World Cup as Wallabies add four chiefs

ACT Brumbies skipper Christian Lealiifano is a step closer to his World Cup dream after the playmaker was invited to a Wallabies training camp in Brisbane.

Lealiifano and other World Cup hopefuls will meet with coach Michael Cheika for another planning session. It will be the first time Lealiifano has been included in a Test squad since he was diagnosed with leukaemia in 2016.

Christian Lealiifano's Wallabies dream is alive after being invited to a World Cup camp. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Christian Lealiifano's Wallabies dream is alive after being invited to a World Cup camp. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

The 31-year-old has been getting back to his best this season, steering the Brumbies to the top of the Australian conference with just four games left in the regular season.

His leadership and reliable performances at flyhalf will give Cheika another option for the chief playmaker duties. Lealiifano, Quade Cooper, Matt Toomua and Bernard Foley will all be at the camp as competition for selection heats up.

The camp will be the first Wallabies get together since Israel Folau's suspension, with the coaches opting to pick four flyhalf options just months before the World Cup in Japan.

Brumbies Scott Sio, Allan Alaalatoa, James Slipper, Rory Arnold, David Pocock, Rob Valetini, Tom Banks, Joe Powell, Tevita Kuridrani and Toni Pulu are also expected to be at the camp.

Back-rower Pete Samu has been left out despite being on of the Brumbies' most in-form players in recent weeks.

Lealiifano has played 19 Tests for Australia. The last was against England in Sydney on June 25, less than two months before doctors diagnosed him with leukaemia.


He has since gone into remission and made his Super Rugby comeback at the end of 2017.

Lealiifano was left out of Cheika's World Cup squad in 2015, but the addition of Rugby Australia director of rugby Scott Johnson and selector Michael O'Connor appears to have broadened perspectives.

The veteran leader re-signed with the Brumbies this season to ensure he was eligible for World Cup selection if picked. But he is yet to decide whether he will stay in Canberra or move his career abroad at the end of this year.

The Brumbies are hopeful Lealiifano will stay in the capital to help usher in a new generation of flyhalves, particularly after Wharenui Hawera signed a deal to go to Japan.

But Lealiifano has had offers from Ireland, France and Japan and could decide to take on a new challenge after more than a decade in the Brumbies' system.

Matt Toomua is back in Australian rugby.

Matt Toomua is back in Australian rugby.

Meanwhile, his former Brumbies playmaker partner Toomua will play his first game for the Melbourne Rebels after he returned from England this week.

Toomua will come off the bench in the Rebels' clash against the Pretoria Bulls on Friday night and could form a dynamic combination with Cooper.

Cooper was in the rugby wilderness this time last year, playing for Souths in the Brisbane club competition, unwanted by Queensland under Brad Thorn with no avenue to make it back to the Wallabies.