Sopoaga happy to leave All Blacks dream behind

Lima Sopoaga celebrates their victory during the Gallagher Premiership Rugby match between the...
Lima Sopoaga celebrates their victory during the Gallagher Premiership Rugby match between the Wasps and Newcastle Falcons at Kingston Park. Photo: Getty Images

Lima Sopoaga admits he went to school to play rugby and eat his lunch. He saw the sport as his ticket to potentially making a better life.

So when the opportunity to accept a lucrative offer to continue his career in England arose, the former Highlanders player made the decision to do what was best for his family - leaving the All Blacks dream behind.

Speaking to The Times, Sopoaga said the contract could change not just his own life, but a few lives.

"To come over here, to uproot my partner [Miriam] and daughter [Milla, aged one] was a very big decision," he said. "But in the long run, it will be the right one.

"Guys in New Zealand who are second or third string, we're not getting paid the same as the Beauden Barretts. I fell into that category, I've no qualms about it, that's the way it goes. Now, if I'm smart and make the right choices, if I'm not buying stupid cars and stuff like that, this money will be put to good use … Who wouldn't want that for their family?

"Things were tight at home and I can remember times when Mum and Dad struggled. But we got through, our house was filled with love. I'm not just playing for myself over here, it's about making a better life for my family, making Mum and Dad's life a bit easier, brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews."

Sopoaga left New Zealand at the end of this year's Super Rugby season with 16 test caps for the All Blacks and 88 matches for the Highlanders to take up a two and a half-year deal with Wasps, reportedly worth £1.5m (NZ$3,063,512).

The 27-year-old said now that he was ineligible to represent the All Blacks, he was enjoying watching them play from the perspective of a fan.

However, he was grateful for the opportunities he had to live out his dream and play in the black jersey despite forfeiting his claim to a jersey by moving abroad.

"If someone had said to me when I was eight years old that I was going to play 16 times for the All Blacks, starting twice, that would have been enough for me. I got to do what many people walking this Earth aren't able to do, that's to achieve their dreams."

Sopoaga has found plenty to enjoy already in a short time in England, giving the example of the price of avocados as a big tick in the pros column.

"I couldn't believe it, it's about 50p (NZ$1) for an avocado, that would cost six times as much back home.

"We want to make the most of our opportunity here, to experience a new culture in England, to learn a new language, to get to know new people.

"I've been to Newcastle recently," he explained.

"I couldn't understand a word anyone said. I tried to order some food and it wasn't really happening. I got in a Uber, I couldn't understand the driver and we both just ended up laughing. I'm sure they couldn't understand me either. But I thought I'd come to live in an English-speaking country."

 

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