All Blacks: More players to forego jersey for big money, says Lima Sopoaga

  • 12/09/2018
Sopoaga played 16 tests for the All Blacks.
Sopoaga played 16 tests for the All Blacks. Photo credit: Getty

Former New Zealand international Lima Sopoaga believes the All Blacks jersey is decreasing in value compared with big-money offers from Europe, especially for players of a lower socio-economic background.

Sopoaga signed a lucrative two-year deal with English Premiership side Wasps in January, while still a regular selection to the All Blacks squad.

The 26-year-old told The Guardian that the number of players willing to forego a chance to play for the All Blacks in favour of financial security for their wider family will only increase.

"Things are starting to change and players are starting to wise up a bit," said Sopoaga, a 16-test All Black.

"They realise that it’s a business these days. A lot of us are starting to talk to each other more, and talk about experiences and about how we can benefit from the game, because it is a business and it can be pretty cut-throat at times.

"For a lot of guys like myself, who come from big families from low socio-economic backgrounds, the chance to change your family's life is pretty overwhelming.

"It's not something you should take lightly and sometimes the jersey is not enough for a better life. It is special, the experiences you have are pretty surreal, but down the track, those things don't pay for a roof over your head."

A move to the Northern Hemisphere is no longer viewed as just a pre-retirement money grab, with more players still in their prime being lured by European clubs, exemplified by the likes of Bristol stars Charles Piutau and Steven Luatua, and Montpellier's Aaron Cruden.

"You can easily see why the riches of Europe for young guys appeal. Rugby doesn’t last forever and younger guys are becoming more aware of that - I think that’s a good thing.

"For me, having my daughter changed things, how I looked at rugby, how I looked at life. Rugby isn’t forever, it can all be taken away from you."

Last week, Sopoaga debuted for Wasps off the bench and is set to make his first start against Leicester on Monday (NZ time).

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