Former All Black Liam Sopoaga has admitted his struggles since relocating to England in an interview with The Guardian.
The 27-year-old admits he is still searching for top form and has felt pressure after coming over as a marquee player in a crucial position.
“It’s not that I don’t love this but there are things that do get you down,” Sopoaga told The Guardian. “It’s not all glitz and glamour. A lot of the time people just see the 80 minutes, they don’t see what goes on behind closed doors and how winning and losing can affect players.”
Wasps currently sit fourth on the Premiership table with five wins and four losses to their name. The 16-test All Black is the first to admit that he is yet to live up to his hefty price tag.
“I take it all quite personally,” he said. “I know when I’ve been playing well and when I haven’t and, at the moment, I’m just not quite there.
“It’s not through a lack or preparation or not trying my best. I know guys who have come over in different positions who have also found it hard but when you’re such a focal point…”
At first-five eighth Sopoaga had big shoes to fill when joining Wasps, with Danny Cipriani moving on to Gloucester. Sopoaga feels that the responsibility that comes with his position has made the transition tough.
“If I came in as a full-back or a wing all I’d really need to do is know my moves, score tries, run fast and catch high balls. Here I’ve got to play chess and drive the bus. On occasions I’ve felt I’ve driven it well; on others I know I haven’t really nailed it.
“I feel that deeply and I shoulder a lot of that personally. Dropping balls or kicking out on the full are all things I can control.
“Coming over as a marquee player adds more pressure but there is no one with greater expectations of me than me.”
Sopoaga also spoke about the relative anonymity of northern hemisphere rugby in New Zealand.
“In New Zealand I don’t think we watch enough northern hemisphere rugby to truly appreciate it,” he said. “It’s out of sight, out of mind. Because we don’t see it we’re like: ‘Meh, whatever.'”
“Now, being amongst it, you’ve got some very skilled players and some pretty wicked talent. England have a very decent pack, some electric outside backs and a world-class 10. If you can get a fully-fit England team playing with the mindset they did against the All Blacks last month they’re going to give themselves half a chance.”
Sopoaga will next suit up for Wasps when they take on Toulouse for their next Champions Cup fixture.
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