Sopoaga lured by Wasps deal

Lima Sopoaga is forsaking the All Blacks and Highlanders for a contract with English club Wasps.  Photo: Getty
Lima Sopoaga is forsaking the All Blacks and Highlanders for a contract with English club Wasps. Photo: Getty
A move by Highlanders playmaker Lima Sopoaga to take up a lucrative contract with English club Wasps has starkly highlighted the growing commercial power of northern hemisphere rugby.

This development also shows that for some players, facing tough decisions on what is best for their future and that of their families, the traditional allure of playing in the All Black jersey is not enough.

Media reports say Sopoaga will walk away from the chance to compete at his first Rugby World Cup in 2019 after signing the lucrative deal.

Sopoaga is contracted for one final season with the Highlanders, but the 16-test All Blacks first five-eighth is believed to have inked a two-and-a-half-year agreement worth around £500,000 to 600,000 ($NZ940,000 to $NZ1.13 million) per season.

Sopoaga has been signed as a marquee player, which places his salary outside the cap.

It is understood he will not be available for the World Cup, stripping the All Blacks of their most established and experienced deputy to Beauden Barrett.

The Times newspaper in London said Sopoaga's decision was a ''huge gain for Wasps'' and a ''significant loss for the All Blacks''.

''He is the man around whom they will build their team for the next two years.''

Attempts to reach the Highlanders for comment yesterday were unsuccessful.

The 26-year-old from Wellington College recently welcomed daughter Milla, and has clearly put his long-term financial future above representing the All Blacks.

He follows players like former All Blacks Charles Piutau and Steve Luatua in leaving at the peak of his career.

The All Blacks will no doubt be frustrated with Sopoaga's move, having invested significant time into his development over the past three years, a period which includes two starts in the No 10 jersey.

The New Zealand Herald reported that leading New Zealand players cashing in offshore was ''nothing new but the age of their exits are rapidly decreasing''.

And these moves were ''no longer timed purely around World Cup cycles''.

New Zealanders liked to think the core of the All Blacks squad was somewhat immune from poaching.

Sopoaga's exit after one final Super Rugby campaign with the Highlanders, the team he helped clinch its maiden title in 2015, shows the lure of the All Black jersey is not always enough.

- Staff reporters 


Sad to see Lima go but a sign of the times. The fact there is plenty of competition for the no. 10 spot would nt have helped. A drop in form or injury could see him out of the All Blacks picture.

On a positive note he s still a Highlander for 2018.