Rugby

Sopoaga in shock New Zealand departure - report

2018-01-10 10:40
Lima Sopoaga (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - All Blacks and Highlanders flyhalf Lima Sopoaga is reportedly heading to England at the end of the year. 

The 26-year-old has signed a two-year deal with English Premiership side Wasps, effectively ruling him out of next year's Rugby World Cup in Japan, The Times newspaper reported on Wednesday.

Sopoaga has played 16 Tests for the All Blacks, including his debut match against South Africa in 2015, and a lack of game time no doubt swayed his decision to leave New Zealand.

The Wellington-born pivot has had to bide his time behind Dan Carter, Beauden Barrett, Aaron Cruden and Colin Slade the past three years with the All Blacks.

The Highlanders, who will get one more season out of their playmaker, have been contacted for comment.

According to the Stuff website, Sopoaga's move is a significant blow to All Blacks coach Steve Hansen's World Cup plans.

If in form and injury free, Sopoaga is likely to have been one of three flyhalves at the tournament, but he has now well and truly opened the door for Crusaders No 10 Richie Mo'unga.

Damian McKenzie, who mostly played fullback for the All Blacks last year, is expected to play flyhalf for the Chiefs this year and, with fullbacks Israel Dagg, Ben Smith and Jordie Barrett back healthy, Sopoaga's decision to leave could also serve as a blessing to him. 

With the 2019 World Cup quickly approaching, Hansen could opt to give Sopoaga the cold shoulder and not play him during this year's June test window, Rugby Championship and Bledisloe Cup series as he eyes up his options.

Sopoaga, injured for much of last year's edition of Super Rugby, isn't the only Kiwi heading to the Wasps after this year's competition. 

Hurricanes captain and flanker Brad Shields, who could go on to play for England, will also join the Wasps. 

Former Hurricanes flyhalf Jimmy Gopperth is also on the books.

Read more on:    all blacks  |  rugby
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