Ulster’s Christian Lealiifano has confirmed that he is to leave the province in the new year and return to Australia and the Brumbies.
Having joined on a short-term deal back in August, it was hoped the dynamic out-half would stay on in Belfast beyond his five-month contract.
Fans would have been encouraged by a recent interview the Wallabies capped star gave in recent weeks where he stated he was certainly open to the possibility of remaining with the province, should the right deal materialise.
Now, however, as reported by BBC Sport NI, the 30-year-old has dashed all hopes of extending his time at the Kingspan Stadium.
“I’m going to head back [to the Brumbies]. The deal from the beginning was to come over on a six-month loan and play some rugby again and hopefully put Ulster in a good position before heading back.
It’s been really enjoyable but it would probably be wrong of me to stay on.”
Having recovered from leukaemia this year, Lealiifano made a big impact in his time at Ulster, with his dynamic ball carrying and kicking helping the province to their current standing of second place in Conference B of the PRO14 league.
The Australian international revealed that remaining on past January could potentially ‘burn bridges’ with the Brumbies, who he has been with since 2007, in addition to hampering the progression of home-grown talent in the province.
In the meantime, he is likely to line out for Ulster on Friday for their PRO14 clash with Benetton, where fans will hope to see him continuing his good form for the province.