Former Wallabies back Christian Leali'ifano is one of the first players to sign with new Super Rugby Pacific side Moana Pasifika.
Announcing the signing on Thursday, Moana said the deal with Leali'ifano proves the strength of the team's appeal to players of Pasifika descent. New Zealand-born, Australian-raised, the 33-year-old has signed a one-year deal with the club with the option to extend after their debut season.
Playing 26-Tests for Australia including the 2019 Rugby World Cup campaign, the fly-half is a sought after talent and in recent years has been plying his trade in Japan at the Toyota Shokki Shuttles and NTT Communications.
Moana Pasifika Coach Aaron Mauger said he was excited to bring Leali'ifano into the club with his experience and strong Samoan identity making him an obvious choice.
"We're ecstatic that Christian has chosen to join our Moana va'a for the journey ahead; he brings so many great qualities that will serve our team well," Mauger said.
"Christian is one of those unbelievable players who oozes class as a footy player and a man. How he sees the game, how he plays the game and the level of professionalism and leadership he brings will play a huge part in our growth as a team and the development of the players around him." A star at the Brumbies, the 34-year-old earn 150 Super Rugby appearances during his time with the side from 2008 to 2019. In 2016, the rugby community was rocked by the news he had been diagnosed with leukemia. Following successful treatment, he made a remarkable return to Super Rugby in 2017 before a short stint Ireland's Pro14 and European Rugby Champions Cup with Ulster.
Returning to the Brumbies in 2019, his fairytale return to the game was complete when he was selected for the Wallabies and made his World Cup debut in Japan.
After three years in Japan, Christian Leali'ifano said he was ready to return to Super Rugby and was immensely proud to be representing a team that celebrates his heritage.
"As someone who was raised a proud Samoan, there is massive appeal in playing for a team that celebrates my heritage, and my culture.
"I have been blessed with so many amazing opportunities over the course of my rugby career, that I feel I can give back to a special community that has always supported me regardless of what colour jersey I was wearing," he said.
Leali'ifano will make the move to New Zealand when he joins the squad for assembly in December.