Christian Lealiifano eyes shock Samoa World Cup selection

Christian Lealiifano (centre) after Drua v Moana Pasifika match in Lautoka.

Cancer survivor Christian Lealiifano is close to penning another special chapter in his rollercoaster career with a 2023 Rugby World Cup appearance for Samoa.

The former Wallabies playmaker has revealed he is “close” to finalising the necessary paperwork to formally transfer his allegiance from Australia to Samoa.

Then it’s up to selectors to decide whether the 35-year-old will feature at the global showpiece in France in September-October.

“I think I’m close. I think we’re just waiting on the form or the documents. I’m not too sure but I think it’s been signed off,” Lealiifano told AAP after helping Moana Pasifika to a shock first Super Rugby Pacific win of the season on Saturday night.

“You’ve still got to get picked but to have the opportunity or to be available is nice. To try to get in there will be good.

“I think it’s looking pretty positive.”

After debuting for Australia under Robbie Deans in 2013 and playing against the touring British and Irish Lions, Lealiifano almost represented Samoa at the 2019 World Cup.

But the goalkicking playmaker had a late change of heart after discussions with his Brumbies coach and Test great Stephen Larkham before being selected by then-Wallabies mentor Michael Cheika for the Japan World Cup.

Lealifano will turn 36 midway through this year’s World Cup.

“I don’t want to just be a token selection because I’m available,” he said.

“I want to be playing some high-quality footy because it’s not an easy tournament, a World Cup and all those kind of things.

“So hopefully I could provide a bit of that, a bit of leadership and a bit of experience.”

The midfield general can barely believe he’s even in the position to possibly represent Samoa at a World Cup seven years after being diagnosed with and then beating leukaemia.

“Every day is a blessing so I’m just so thankful to be still running around,” Lealiifano said.

“Ten years ago you could never think this, because you were playing for the Wallabies and all that, and you were aspiring to play there, and to have these laws and eligibility opportunities is pretty cool.

“It’s exciting for the next generation coming through too, that they can aspire to not only play for tier-one nations but tier-two as well and you can sort of jump over if you like.”

Lealiifano is eligible for Samoa having not played for Australia for more than three years. “As a whole, I think it will be really, really special just to be able to represent my family and my blood,” he said.

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