Lima Sopoaga has made a brave but pragmatic decision. Closing the door on an All Black future, the backup Test five-eighths has opted for financial security with Wasps in Britain ahead of a few more seasons in the black jersey, and quite possibly selection for the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.

At 26, he is one of the few to leave the setup while still in their relative prime, but he almost certainly will not be the last. With their fat chequebooks, European clubs know that talented New Zealand players will be greatly tempted by the prospect of six or even seven figure pay packets and the chance to play in top northern hemisphere competitions.

New Zealand Rugby, with its top salaries reserved for marquee players, cannot hope to match the offers on the table elsewhere. That status eluded Sopoaga, but he was still a fine athlete who won 16 caps and played out of his skin on debut in 2015 to seal a famous victory against the Springboks at the forbidding Ellis Park.

The money now available to the best male players in this country offers an appealing career choice, along with the chance of higher honours. That is why many till now have put off the decision to head north until they have started to lose their sharpness.


Sopoaga's decision to go underlines the commercial reality that top players have a market value but a limited shelf life.

Besides the risk of injury, players especially in New Zealand know there always will be a competitor for their position. Sopoaga had three or four players after his spot, which may have influenced his call.

He has opted for financial security, and who can blame him? Some equally talented players are waiting to fill his boots.