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Lealiifano chance for Super finals return

NZN 22/06/2017 Matt Coughlan

Christian Lealiifano could make an incredible return to Super Rugby in time for the Brumbies' finals campaign, less than a year after being diagnosed with leukaemia.

The 29-year-old the star inside back played the final 30 minutes of the Brumbies' exhibition match against the Asia-Pacific Dragons on Thursday night in Singapore.

Assistant coach Dan McKellar - to take over next year from Stephen Larkham - said Lealiifano hadn't missed a beat during his time out of the game.

The comeback was remarkable given he was told only in August he had cancer, had a bone marrow transplant in November and entered remission in February.

"I couldn't sit here and fathom what he's gone through with his chemo, the treatment he's had and the transplant," McKellar said.

"To think not even six months (after his 100 days in remission celebration) he's giving himself an opportunity to potentially play professional rugby.

McKellar said Lealiifano had taken a step towards a Super Rugby return but the decision would ultimately rest with Larkham.

"His involvements were like he'd been playing all year," McKellar said.

The Australian conference winners have two regular-season fixtures, against Queensland on July 7 and the Chiefs eight days later, before they host a quarter-final on July 21 in Canberra.

"Whether he plays some more club rugby in the lead-up to the Reds and the Chiefs, that decision will be Stephen's and Christian's," McKellar said.

The Brumbies' co-captain knocked over six conversions in the 61-14 trial victory and showed glimpses of his skills.

"He looks in as good shape physically as I've seen him," McKellar said.

"He's fit, he's strong and that's probably the benefit he's had in recent months - he's been able to spend some quality individual time with (athletic performance director) Ben Seppell.

"His body's in tremendous shape."

Lealiifano, who has 19 Wallaby caps, described his journey to full health as ongoing.

"It was fantastic to get back onto the field and play some rugby after such a long layoff," Lealiifano said in a statement.

"This is another step in the recovery process and it felt good to be on the field and fully involved again.

"I am concentrating totally on my recovery and my rugby at the moment and my focus is on helping the team and trying to get back to full health and my best as a rugby player."

Former coach Laurie Fisher will re-join the Brumbies next year as an assistant to McKellar.

Fisher, who led the Brumbies from 2005-08 and co-coached the club with Larkham in 2014, said he had never seen anything in his long career in rugby to rival Lealiifano's comeback.

Larkham will take up a full-time role with the Wallabies at the end of the season.

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