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Rugby World Cup: Christian Lealiifano debuts for Australia after overcoming leukaemia

Lealiifano in his World Cup debut for Australia yesterday
Lealiifano in his World Cup debut for Australia yesterday
Ivan Derrick
Modified 22 Sep 2019, 08:27 IST

Australian rugby player Christian Lealiifano's relationship with the national team can teach us all a lesson in perseverance. One only has to look at his international debut which lasted just 43 seconds before he was knocked unconscious mid-tackle in 2013.

In 2015, Lealiifano narrowly missed out on being select for Australia's Rugby World Cup squad but continued pushing on in pursuit of representing his nation in the tournament of his dreams.

Over the next few years, Lealiifano slowly but surely secured his spot in the Wallabies side before in August 2016 he was diagnosed with leukaemia. The illness seemingly put to bed any chance of him achieving his dreams of representing his country at a World Cup and put his very life at risk.

"Went into hospital, found out Thursday afternoon, I was in Thursday night and started chemotherapy on Saturday morning and as soon as I got to hospital it was all about how am I going to get better? How can I get better?," Lealiifano said in an interview.

On top of the chemotherapy sessions, Lealiifano was aided by his sister Sally, one of six siblings, who had the same blood type as Christian and was the donor for his bone-marrow transplant in an effort to help her brother.

"To have someone in the family be able to donate, to give me every chance of beating this and, essentially, saving my life, it's very, very special," Lealiifano said.

While Lealiifano's recovery was far from straightforward, he lost 12 kilograms in just two weeks and by 2017 he had entered remission. He went to play for Irish rugby club Ulster on loan in a bid to return to match fitness and then made an emotional return to his club side the Brumbies less than a year after his diagnosis.

After impressing the national coaches, Lealiifano completed his comeback by returning to the international side and finally achieved his life-long dream when he was named in Australia's squad for the World Cup.

Lealiifano started in Australia's first game against Fiji at fly-half and scored two points for the team with a conversion in the Wallabies 39-21 win.

Published 22 Sep 2019, 08:27 IST
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