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Former All Blacks star Lima Sopoaga warns NZ rugby of lucrative overseas deals outweighing pull of black jersey

Former All Blacks first-five Lima Sopoaga has warned New Zealand rugby that the lure of offshore deals is starting to rival the honours of wearing the black jersey.

Sopoaga played 16 Tests for the All Blacks and is now plying his trade in the English Premiership after signing a lucrative two-year deal with the Wasps team based in Coventry.

The 26-year-old says NZ Rugby's policy of not selecting Kiwi players playing overseas, may not be enough to keep talent in New Zealand, with money luring more and more Kiwi rugby players abroad.

"Things are starting to change and players are starting to wise up," Sopoaga told The Guardian.

"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.

Lima Sopoaga celebrates against South Africa
Lima Sopoaga celebrates against South Africa Source: Photosport

"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."

Sopoaga is one of many recent New Zealand players to leave early in their rugby careers for big time offers abroad in Europe and the UK.

Former All Blacks Charles Piutau, Malakai Fekitoa, Aaron Cruden, Steven Luatua and Julian Savea left New Zealand while still in their 20s and and still eligible for All Blacks selection.

Sopoaga says the pull of lucrative overseas deals is just too good to pass up.

"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," he said.

"I think that's a good thing. For me having my daughter changed things, how I looked at rugby, how I looked at my life. Rugby isn't forever. It can all be taken away from you."

The former Highlanders No.10 found himself in a tight spot, with Beauden Barrett cementing the starting jersey for the All Blacks and Damian McKenzie and Richie Mo'unga air-marked as covers.

Sopoaga chose to take up a lucrative two-year lucrative deal with the Wasps, even with the Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan around the corner.


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