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Samoa vs Chile: Christian Leali’ifano takes next step in remarkable career after allegiance switch

Next step: Christian Leali’ifano now plays for Samoa after earning 26 caps for Australia  (Getty Images)
Next step: Christian Leali’ifano now plays for Samoa after earning 26 caps for Australia (Getty Images)

Christian Leali’ifano will take the next step in his remarkable career when leading Samoa’s backline against Chile at the Rugby World Cup on Saturday.

The 36-year-old has had to negotiate leukaemia, losses of form and even now a change of Test allegiance to reach the 2023 tournament still in the international area.

So when he pulls on Samoa’s jersey at a World Cup for the first time this weekend, the former Australia fly-half will be rightfully proud just to have made it this far.

Leali’ifano ranks among a host of Samoa stars to capitalise on World Rugby’s new heritage rule, switching allegiance after a three-year Test stand-down period.

Head coach Seilala Mapusua is pleased with the potency of his squad and cannot wait to send Samoa into World Cup action.

“This is our first game and it feels like we’ve been waiting a long time.” said Mapusua.

“There’s been a lot of managing the energy levels and making sure we don’t over-stimulate ourselves before the weekend.”