Christian Leali'ifano

Ulster rugby chiefs have moved to soften the blow of the loss of star player Charles Piutau after next season by pulling off a transfer coup with the signing of Australian star Christian Leali’ifano on a short-term deal.

The 19-times-capped Wallaby is an inspiration to many, having returned to the game after overcoming leukaemia.

The 29-year-old will spend the autumn and much of the winter in Belfast, before returning home to Australia for the Super Rugby campaign with his club, the Brumbies.

Leali’ifano, with no current playing commitments in his homeland, is hopeful of arriving at Kingspan in time to play some part in the PRO14 league opener against the Cheetahs, on September 1.

He can play across the backline but will be primarily required as a No10 to provide much needed experience in a position where Ulster will be without Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding as they await the outcome of criminal charges which both deny.The move, although short-term, will be seen as Operations Director Bryn Cunningham’s biggest deal since the signing of Marcell Coetzee over a year ago, and provide a real boost to fans still digesting the news that current star Piutau will move to Bristol next season to become the highest paid player in English history in a £1.8m two-year deal.

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