Argentina v Australia, Rugby Championship
Lasers no worry for Christian Leali'ifano
October 1, 2013
Christian Leali'ifano is confident he can handle the raucous crowd in Argentina © Getty Images
Christian Leali'ifano is unfazed by the prospect of lasers being flashed at him when he's goalkicking in Saturday's Rugby Championship Test against Argentina in Rosario.
Argentine rugby is getting an unwanted reputation for poor crowd behaviour in the form of laser-wielding fans who seek to distract the opposition. A laser light was flashed on the ball as All Blacks fly-half Aaron Cruden lined up a conversion attempt in last weekend's 33-15 win over Argentina in Mendoza.
And last year in Rosario, Australia's goalkicker Mike Harris complained of a laser being directed at him after his only miss from eight attempts in the Wallabies' 25-19 victory. With the Wallabies only managing to beat Argentina by 14-13 on home soil in Perth on September 14, Saturday's wooden-spoon battle is shaping as a tight contest in which kicking could well be decisive.
However, Leali'ifano, who has impressed as Australia's No.1 goalkicker since taking over this year, believes his kicking routine and focus would help him overcome similar treatment.
"I saw a bit of the game last year and last week I saw Aaron Cruden trying to kick but I don't really worry about it too much," said centre Leali'ifano, who has an 82.14 per cent success rate in Tests this year. "I have enough in my process and how I go about kicking to not let it be a distraction. I have a certain target on the ball that I concentrate on the most. If the laser is around that area it might distract me but if I stay focused hopefully nothing else goes wrong."
Leali'ifano said the second Test against the British & Irish Lions in Melbourne, when he converted an Adam Ashley-Cooper try to give Australia a winning lead with five minutes to play to keep the series alive, had provided the most challenging kick of his career.
"Looking back, at the time I wasn't too fazed but looking at it now, that was probably the biggest kick I have had in my whole career. It was really loud, and an important occasion. Luckily kicks are going over at the moment. I am happy that my approach and everything going toward my kicking is working well."
Leali'ifano's success is all the more impressive given he's been kicking all year with an ankle injury that will require surgery after the spring tour to Europe in November. The 26-year-old Brumbies playmaker said he'd had to manage his training load throughout the year because of the injury. He will need a bone fragment shaved and ligaments in the joint re-attached, which could delay his start to the Super Rugby season.
"It causes me pain during the week which is why I've got to manage things," he said. "Sometimes I feel it late in games or if I've run around too much on it, but at the moment I'm getting through on adrenalin."