Opinion: There's more to life and rugby than money, Lima

Before I dive in, I just want to say I understand where Lima Sopoaga is coming from.

For guys from a "low socio-economic background" as he put it in his interview with the Guardian, huge offers from overseas can be tempting and one that All Blacks have started taking more often in recent years.

Whether it’s for family, the future or simply the fortune, there’s no denying Kiwi rugby talent is becoming harder to keep on our shores.

But there's a couple minor details Lima didn't mention when he sent this warning to the All Blacks about the changing times.

One, the guys that are going aren't the go-to stars.

It’s harsh, I know, but let’s be honest. When you look at the list of former All Blacks who have left our shores in recent years for the UK, none of them jump out as the 'one who got away' do they?

Charlies Piutau, Malakai Fekitoa, Aaron Cruden, Steven Luatua and Julian Savea are just a few to leave since the 2015 World Cup but they were fringe players at best.

But, once again, hats off to them. They've gone and secured a future for themselves and their families that some can only dream of and it’s respectable that they adjusted their dreams of being an All Black or a world champion or whatever else for their families. There's no arguing that is a commendable act.

Other guys like Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith left to get a handsome paycheck before they hung up the boots after spending most of their careers adding to the legacy of the black jersey, so there’s not much to argue about there either.

The Chiefs coach said he's focused on the team's quarter-final, not speculation regarding Nonu.
Source: 1 NEWS

But that brings me to the next point.

Money doesn’t last forever but legacies do. For the guys who spend the larger part of their careers chasing and earning the black jersey, it’s almost like their names get woven into its fabric.

Richie McCaw, Keven Mealamu – even Tony Woodcock after that stunning 2011 try. World class players at their position who will go down as some of the game’s best and if you look up a picture of them, it’ll be in a black jersey.

They could’ve gone overseas. They could’ve taken the big money. But as McCaw said in his film, he always set out on being a "G.A.B".

What kid doesn’t want that? Fame and riches are well and good but if you are considered one of the best in the world at your position, why would you ever want to leave arguably the best sports team on the planet when you can add to its history?

Sopoaga is right in saying the game has become a business and the "riches of Europe" are going to appeal more and more to "young guys" but going as far as saying "things are starting to change" in relation to the All Blacks is pushing it.

I can’t speak for the likes of the current youthful stars of the All Blacks but it’s fair to say there haven’t been many rumours of them being tempted off-shore by European clubs.

Again, this isn’t a dig at Sopoaga’s choice or anyone else’s for that matter but just a gentle reminder you can’t put a value on the black jersey.

And if you ever need a reminder of that, look up Karl Tu’inukuafe’s debut from earlier this year against France – I think everyone can agree a teary-eyed moment like that is truly priceless.

COVENTRY, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 08:  Lima Sopoaga of Wasps offloads the ball during a Premiership Rugby match between Wasps and Exeter Chiefs at Ricoh Arena on September 8, 2018 in Coventry, United Kingdom.  (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
Lima Sopoaga of Wasps offloads the ball during a Premiership Rugby match between Wasps and Exeter Chiefs at Ricoh Arena in Coventry, United Kingdom. Source: Getty



Watch: NZ Sevens stars surprise AIMS Games athletes with trophies from successful World Cup campaigns

Three New Zealand Sevens players have surprised thousands of students in Tauranga with both the men's and women's Sevens Rugby World Cup trophies.

Scott Curry, Ruby Tui and Risaleaana Pouri-Lane visited the AIMS Games at Blake Park today, signing autographs and more importantly taking selfies with the students.

Curry told 1 NEWS "the cup is New Zealand's cup" and to see the reaction from those lining up for a photo is why the teams work so hard.

He added it's "pretty cool for kids to be involved in sevens" and hopes he can inspire others to the join the game.

Black Fern Ruby Tui says it's "amazing" to see women's rugby growing in popularity.

She says people are "getting onboard" understanding the women's results and competitions.

"The Prime Minister know what's going on in our season," she says.

Meanwhile, Curry says the team hopes to qualify for the Olympics by winning the next World Series starting in Dubai at the end of the year.

The All Blacks Sevens finished third in the last series behind the Flying Fijians and Blitzbokke.

"I think it's maybe been nine years since we've won Dubai, so it's definitely a motivating factor for us heading there.

"I don't why we haven’t won that tournament for so long," Curry says.

Scott Curry said showing kids the silverware will hopefully inspire the next generation of world champions. Source: 1 NEWS


Sonny Bill Williams in doubt for Saturday's All Blacks-Test with Springboks

The All Blacks' policy around not training is under the microscope after Sonny Bill Williams went down with illness ahead of their Test against the Springboks.

New Zealand are desperate to get first-choice inside centre Williams on the park in what has been a season dogged by injury.

He looked set to return for Saturday's Rugby Championship Test in Wellington after scans showed he had overcome a 10-week shoulder injury.

However, he missed yesterday's practice session with an ailment and is in doubt to be included in what should be close to New Zealand's strongest team for their final home Test of the year.

The All Blacks have previously said their strong preference is for players to train all week if they are to be considered for match duty.

Williams' last game was the third Test against France on June 23 - his only international appearance of 2018.

The 33-year-old's availability this week would be timely as Ngani Laumape is ruled out with knee damage suffered in Saturday's 46-24 win over Argentina in Nelson.

The All Blacks want to restore their preferred midfield combination of Williams and Ryan Crotty, who has been out for a month following a head knock.

Star winger Rieko Ioane's hamstring is healed and is likely to return, along with match-winning five-eighth Beauden Barrett.

Sam Cane and Liam Squire should be restored as flankers despite some muscular efforts from fringe candidates Ardie Savea and Shannon Frizell against the Pumas.

The tight five may be the only area below full strength for the world champions.

Lock Brodie Retallick (shoulder) and prop Joe Moody (thumb) are poised to miss the rest of the Rugby Championship.

World class hooker Dane Coles is near the end of a nine-month recovery from a knee injury.

Assistant coach Ian Foster said Coles is targeting a provincial return this month and could yet figure in the final Rugby Championship Test against South Africa in Pretoria on October 7.

"Every week he's getting closer and closer," Foster said.

"It's exciting and he's starting to believe that too I think. He's got that glint in his eye."

All Blacks' Sonny Bill Williams during an All Blacks training session ahead of the third and final All Blacks v France test match at Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin, New Zealand. 21 June 2018. Copyright Image: Derek Morrison / www.photosport.nz
Sonny Bill Williams. Source: Photosport


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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.

COVENTRY, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 08:  Lima Sopoaga of Wasps offloads the ball during a Premiership Rugby match between Wasps and Exeter Chiefs at Ricoh Arena on September 8, 2018 in Coventry, United Kingdom.  (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
Lima Sopoaga of Wasps offloads the ball during a Premiership Rugby match between Wasps and Exeter Chiefs at Ricoh Arena in Coventry, United Kingdom. Source: Getty


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Liam Squire admits he’s fired up to face physical 'Boks – 'You go to a dark place'

Liam Squire isn't afraid to tap into something a bit more sinister for this weekend's Rugby Championship Test against the Springboks.

Squire was asked by media if the match in Wellington is one he plans to get extra competitive for considering the physicality the South Africans are renowned for bringing.

Squire said his approach wasn't so clear cut.

"You know it's going to hurt - they're a physical team," he said.

"You've got to be up for that challenge and you do go to that dark place when you play against the South Africans.

"As a forward pack, we're looking forward to that."

The All Blacks enter Saturday's match undefeated in 2018 while the Springboks are still recovering from back-to-back away losses to Argentina and the Wallabies.

The All Blacks loosie says the forwards are looking forward to a big contest in Wellington. Source: 1 NEWS


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