New chapter in cancer survivor's story

Thu, 31 Aug 2017 15:15

NEWS: Twelve months ago his life was turned upside down by the news that he had leukaemia. On Friday he starts a new chapter.

Christian Lealiifano is set to make his first Ulster appearance on Friday in the historic Pro14 opener against the Cheetahs at Kingspan Stadium in Belfast.

The Australian international discovered - in August 2016 - that he had leukaemia, just two weeks after playing in the Brumbies' final Super Rugby game of the season.

Less than a year later, the utility back came off the replacements' bench to make his comeback to professional rugby in one of the heart-warming stories of the season.

The 29-year-old had to undergo chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant, before getting the best news possible in February this year: he was in remission.

Capped 19 times by the Wallabies since making his debut against the British and Irish Lions in 2013, Lealiifano was given the green light to resume his rugby career, and he was given an emotional welcome when he returned in the Brumbies' Super Rugby quarterfinal defeat by the Hurricanes in July, 11 months after his original diagnosis.

Earlier this month Ulster confirmed they have signed Lealiifano on a deal which will run until the end of the European Champions Cup pool stages in January.

The 29-year-old will then return to the Brumbies for the start of the Super Rugby season.

Lealiifano has won 19 caps for the Wallabies and recently returned to action after recovering from leukaemia.

He will fill the gap left by Paddy Jackson, who has stepped aside from playing pending legal proceedings.
Fellow off-season signings Jean Deysel and John Cooney will also make their competitive debuts for the Province, having both lined out during the pre-season fixtures.
Friday's match will mark a momentous chapter in the history of the Pro14 Championship, as Southern Hemisphere sides join the competition for the first time, with the Bloemfontein-based Cheetahs making their maiden trip to Belfast.
Chris Henry will captain the side from openside flanker, in what is an abrasive looking back row with the South African duo of Deysel and Marcell Coetzee at blindside flank and No.8 respectively.

There are currently no matches being played
Fri, 29 September 2017
Sharks v Golden Lions 17h00 Durban
Worcester Warriors v Saracens 18h35 Sixways
Newcastle Falcons v London Irish 18h35 Kingston Park
Sale Sharks v Gloucester 19h00 AJ Bell Stadium
Leinster v Edinburgh 19h35 RDS Arena
Glasgow Warriors v Treviso 19h35 Scotstoun Stadium
Scarlets v Connacht 19h35 Parc y Scarlets
Sat, 30 September 2017
Griquas v Free State Cheetahs 12h00 Kimberley
Leicester Tigers v Exeter Chiefs 13h00 Welford Road
Munster v Cardiff Blues 13h30 Thomond Park
Cheetahs v Ospreys 14h00 Bloemfontein
Northampton Saints v Harlequins 14h00 Franklin's Gardens
Wasps v Bath 14h00 Ricoh Arena
Zebre v Ulster 14h35 Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi
South Africa v Australia 15h05 Bloemfontein
Dragons v Kings 18h35 Rodney Parade
Sun, 01 October 2017
Argentina v New Zealand 22h30 Estadio Jose Amalfitani
Blue Bulls v Western Province 12h30 Loftus Versfeld
Pool A
Team P W D L Pts
Glasgow Warriors 4 4 0 0 18
Munster 4 3 0 1 14
Cheetahs 4 2 0 2 10
Connacht 4 1 0 3 7
Zebre 4 1 0 3 6
Ospreys 4 1 0 3 5
Cardiff Blues 4 1 0 3 5
Pool B
Team P W D L Pts
Ulster 4 4 0 0 18
Scarlets 4 3 0 1 16
Leinster 4 3 0 1 15
Edinburgh 4 2 0 2 10
Treviso 4 2 0 2 9
Dragons 4 1 0 3 4
Kings 4 0 0 4 0