Three years after he last played a Test for Australia, Brumbies veteran Christian Lealiifano will be back in the Wallabies fold this weekend at a pre-World Cup camp in Brisbane.
The 31-year-old has been rewarded for strong form in 2019 by being invited to join back up with the Wallabies for their third camp of the year, following gatherings in January and March.
Just days after landing back in Australia, and playing off the bench for the Rebels on Friday night, Matt To’omua is also set to join the camp.
Lealiifano has played 14 Tests but hasn’t played for the Wallabies since three appearances off the bench in the 2016 series against England.
Just six weeks later the Brumbies playmaker was diagnosed with leukaemia and Lealiifano then spent the next year undergoing treatment, including a bone marrow transplant.
Lealiifano has been leading the Brumbies well in their progression to the top of the Australian conference, and he and To’omua will add more no.
10 options for Cheika alongside Bernard Foley and Quade Cooper, who have both been at the previous camps.
The squad will be reasonably similar to the one who attended the last two camps, which was based on last year’s Spring Tour squad but with additions such as James Slipper and Luke Jones.
It’s understood Cheika has called in young injured duo Jordan Petaia and Rob Valetini, despite both barely playing this season.
The camp will be a chance for coaches to meet with players, and also new strength and conditioning coach Dean Benton, and there will also be gym sessions and some running on Monday and/or Tuesday to complement their Super Rugby programs.
Not all players will be in the Brisbane camp at the same time. It is expected the Rebels and Brumbies players will attend on Sunday and Monday, and Reds and Waratahs players will attend on Monday and Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the next batch of Rugby World Cup tickets will go on sale on Saturday and Australian fans will have to move quickly to snare the limited amount remaining.
Already 90,000 Australians have tickets to attend the World Cup in Japan, and the Wales-Wallabies clash is sold out.
There are only limited tickets available for the Wallabies' clashes with Fiji, Uruguay and Georgia.
Tickets go on sale at 7pm AEST on Saturday at the Rugby World Cup official ticket site.
Words: Iain Payten