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Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham confident Christian Lealiifano will overcome cancer scare

Brumbies co-captain Christian Lealiifano is battling leukaemia. Photo: Graham TidyThey’ve worked together to bring down the old enemy and bring a Super Rugby title to Canberra, and now Stephen Larkham will look to help Christian Lealiifano face his toughest test of all.
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Word filtered through on Saturday that Lealiifano had been diagnosed with leukaemia following a brief illness, and Brumbies coach Larkham has come out in support of one of the game’s most highly-respected players.

Multiple visits to see Lealiifano since the news broke has given Larkham an unshakeable belief the Brumbies star will overcome the scare, with the 28-year-old “in a really good frame of mind” following an outpouring of support from across the globe.

“I’m confident that if a guy can get through this, Christian is that guy,” Larkham said.

“Christian is highly-regarded within the rugby community and you can see that with the support he’s been given over the last 24 to 48 hours. He’s really positive that there will be a good outcome.”

Larkham said while the news had come as a shock, he was certain the 19-Test veteran had the character to come out the other side.

“My immediate thought was ‘he’s young, he’s fit, and he’s got a really positive attitude towards life’,” Larkham said.

“As serious a condition as this is, I felt pretty confident and believed that Christian would get through this. We haven’t even started the journey of getting through this, but that’s still my thoughts at the moment.”

The pair have grown close since Larkham joined the Brumbies’ coaching staff in 2011, with experts likening Lealiifano’s game to that of the Wallaby great.

Larkham’s re-entry to the Brumbies set-up was the rekindling of an old friendship after a baby-faced Lealiifano joined the club in the former’s final season as a player.

“We’ve got a pretty strong relationship,” Larkham said.

“He was one of the co-captains this year at the Brumbies and we worked pretty tightly together with the team and the backline.”

Lealiifano has also found himself under Larkham’s tutelage at international level, forging a partnership in June’s Test series against England where the 28-year-old was prepared to forego a Wallabies cap as he awaited the birth of his first child.

It is that same family-first mentality that Larkham believed was steeling the five-eighth on his road to recovery.

“He’s constantly thinking family first — he’ll do anything for anyone else first. That’s a great quality to have,” Larkham said.

Larkham said rugby was the last thing on the agenda as a support network formed to help one of Australian rugby’s favourite sons through his toughest period.

“There’s still some information that we need to gather,” Larkham said.

“But the priority for everyone who’s around him at the moment — which includes the rugby community, supporters, friends and family — is just to help him get through this period.

“We’re here to support Christian. It’s not about anything else. It’s not about me or the team or rugby. It’s about supporting Christian.”

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