Former All Black five-eighths Lima Sopoaga has warned that New Zealand's global rugby dominance is at risk.

The Highlander who moved to British club Wasps this season, has warned of a growing exodus of players in their prime, who are making ''business decisions'' to seek their fortunes in Europe, reports the Daily Mail.

For years, New Zealand have managed to hold on to the bulk of their leading lights by refusing to pick players based abroad. The allure of the black jersey guarded against a mass migration, but Sopoaga believes that others are ready to give their best years to clubs offering lucrative contracts in the northern hemisphere.

''I do think that things are starting to change and players are starting to wise up,'' he said. '''They realise that it's a business these days. When you've got it, you've got it, but when you don't, clubs aren't going to be afraid to cut you.

Advertisement

''For players 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. That's the way it is. Players are starting to wise up to that.''

Until now, the trend has been for Kiwi veterans to head north in search of a last big contract before retiring, but Sopoaga believes that more 20-somethings are considering that career-defining step.

''I think it is a pattern. 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.

''Sometimes the jersey is not enough for a better life. It is special when you do get it, the experiences you do have are pretty surreal, but down the track those things don't pay for a roof over your head.''

Charles Piutau has been a trail-blazer for the younger generation with a greater awareness of their market value abroad.

He abandoned his All Blacks career to move to Europe and is now on a £1million-a-year deal at Bristol, after spells at Wasps and Ulster.

Sopoaga said: ''I think he's one of 12 or 14, so you can easily see why the riches of Europe are so appealing for young guys. Rugby doesn't last forever and I think 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. Having her, the picture was changed; where I wanted to head, what I wanted to do, how I wanted to set up my future. Rugby isn't forever, it can all be taken away from you, that all came into consideration.

''Every kid growing up in New Zealand wants to be part of the All Blacks. It is pretty special, but at the same time, it was time to try something else. I made peace with the decision.''