All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has expressed his disappointment at Lima Sopoaga’s decision to leave New Zealand rugby and sign for the England club, Wasps.
The first-five confirmed he would be leaving at the end of the 2018 provincial season with a heartfelt Instagram post on Thursday, insisting it was a difficult decision.
The 27-year-old will reportedly sign a three-year deal worth in the region of £1.5m (NZ$2.8 million).
Sopoaga has played 16 Tests for New Zealand after making his debut against the Springboks in 2015, but most of those appearances have been made off the bench.
Hanson was sad to lose his reserve fly-half but knows he must do what's best for his family.
"We're disappointed to be losing Lima but we understand his reasons for leaving," Hansen told The Times.
"He has been upfront and communicated with us through the process and when he leaves, he and his young family will go with our best wishes. Our job now will be to develop the next player to take his place."
Former All Blacks winger Jeff Wilson admitted he was not surprised to see Sopoaga make the decision to apply his trade in the northern hemisphere.
"His stock will be as high as it's ever been given he was the number two, the preferred guy off the bench for the All Blacks so I'm not surprised by it because there are temptations for guys like Lima all the time," he said.
"It is such a competitive market and they have their family in mind. I can understand that with guys like Steven Luatua, Charles Piatau who have said that their family comes first and I think for every player, it is about weighing up the situation.
"He has had a great run at the Highlanders. It's elevated him to a level of play which has seen him play for the All Blacks.
"For him and another of players, they have to continually weigh up the fact that they will get compensative significantly more and that is the best way to secure their future for the short term, and the families' security in the long term."