European Champions Cup: Lealiifano hopes to sign-off with a win

Ulster 'good enough to beat any side in the world' - Lealiifano
European Rugby Champions Cup Pool One
Venue: Ricoh Arena, Coventry Date: Sunday, 21 January Kick-off: 15:15 GMT
Coverage: Live commentary on BBC Radio Ulster medium wave and the BBC Sport website

Christian Lealiifano says he's desperate to leave Ulster on a winning note as he prepares for Sunday's Champions Cup game against Wasps.

The fly-half will fly home to Australia to rejoin the Brumbies just hours after Ulster's vital European game.

Lealiifano hopes to finish his five month spell at Ulster with a win, which would secure a quarter-final spot.

"The team is good enough to beat any side in the world if we get our game going right," he said.

"I think on our day we can definitely compete. With the talent we have in the squad and the direction that the team is going, I think we're improving each week.

"Obviously the inconsistency of our game is something that frustrates us internally as well so we are just trying to hopefully get our game going and we can definitely compete."

Following the win over La Rochelle in round five, Ulster are top of Pool One with a one point lead over the French side while Wasps are five points adrift and need a bonus-point victory at the Ricoh Arena to have any chance of reaching the knockout stages.

If Ulster don't get a bonus point victory against Wasps, La Rochelle can also finish top of the pool if they can take maximum points from their game against Harlequins on Sunday.

After heavy derby defeats to Leinster and Connacht over the festive period, Lealiifano, 30, says that a run of consistent performances is just as important as the result this week.

"That's been the goal, to try and win as many games as we can here and try and keep improving our game as well," added Lealiifano.

"So a win would be nice but we have just got to put the game that we want out there first, whether you win or lose after that, as long as we're proud of the effort that we are putting in for each other."

A cold experience

The Australian international, who has scored 47 points in 16 appearances since his arrival on a short-term contract last August, has become a crowd favourite during his time in Belfast.

"I didn't know if I'd like it or love it - I didn't know too much about Ulster to be honest - so getting here and really immersing myself in the culture, I've really enjoyed it," admitted Lealiifano, who had to adjust to the European climate as well as a different style of play when he first arrived.

Ulster defeated La Rochelle last Saturday in Lealiifano's final home match for the side
Ulster defeated La Rochelle last Saturday in Lealiifano's final home match for the side

"Definitely a cold experience but one that I have thoroughly enjoyed. It's really opened up my eyes to rugby on this side of the world, I've thoroughly enjoyed playing with different players and experiencing different rugby cultures and different cities.

"It's been amazing to say I've rubbed shoulders with Rory Best, Tommy Bowe and Charles Piutau and those kind of guys has been absolutely fantastic and something that I never thought I'd do. To have that opportunity and that experience has been one that I'll cherish for a long time.

"Definitely sad to leave, I don't know if I'll have any tears - they might come after the game."

Renewed belief

After a rollercoaster season so far, Ulster have reserved their best form for Europe where they have recorded four wins from their five pool matches, which leaves them with a slender lead in Pool One.

A bonus-point win on Sunday would secure a top-seeding for the quarter-final draw while a defeat could result in failure to qualify for the last eight.

The victory against La Rochelle, which was revenge for their sole European loss so far this season, has helped to ease the pressure on director of rugby Les Kiss and on the players.

"Getting that win against La Rochelle last week has done a massive amount for our confidence," said flanker Chris Henry.

"They are one of the form teams in Europe and we were able to do a job on them and get the result that we needed - obviously it would have been nice to have not given them a bonus point as well but for us to be at round six and to have everything to play for is an incredible feeling."

"In the big games in Europe, our big players are standing up and performing and that's what was shown against La Rochelle, our big players stood up and delivered some big moments, key moments, and it means everything to the players, the management and the team as a whole and it's been too long for us not to be in a quarter-final.

"It's going to be really tough but we're up for it and we're going to be ready for the weekend."