Lima Sopoaga this week confirmed that he would leave Super Rugby franchise, the Highlanders, at the conclusion of the upcoming season.
Reports suggest Sopoaga is set to earn in excess of NZD$1 million a season at Wasps, which would be comparable to Kurtley Beale’s 2-year deal with Wasps worth $1.5 million a season.
Credit: All Blacks
New Zealand Rugby will undoubtedly be freshly concerned that another international in his prime is leaving the country.
Figures released this week by rugby statistician Russ Petty show the sheer scale of the All Blacks migration.
Since 2012, 11 capped All Blacks have emigrated, Sopoaga joins fellow compatriots Charlie Faumuina, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Jeremy Thrush, Steven Luatua, Charles Piutau, Tom Taylor, Francis Saili, Frank Halai, George Moala and Malakai Fekitoa.
52 new NZ caps since 2012. Sopoaga would be 11th to leave after Faumuina, Kerr-Barlow, Thrush, Luatua, Piutau, Taylor, Saili, Halai, Fekitoa, Moala pic.twitter.com/aUL70t4LzB
— Russ Petty (@rpetty80) January 10, 2018
Historically these moves were made towards the end of an All Blacks career, with one eye on retirement.
However, in recent seasons an alarming trend of recently capped All Blacks such as Malakai Fekitoa, Charles Piutau, Steven Luatua have all left in their prime (mid-twenties) for cash-rich Europe.
There have been a total of 52 All Black caps handed out since 2012, meaning over 20% of All Blacks capped in the last five years are now plying their trade overseas.
For any other nation these figures would be a death sentence, however, it has had little – if any – effect on the All Blacks.
Such is the conveyer belt of talent at Steve Hansen’s disposal, the countries youth structure manages to produce players like Damian McKenzie and Rieko Ioane who have stepped in to seamlessly fill the void.
The migration north will still be a concerning trend for New Zealand rugby, as they watch players like Sopoaga leave their shores.
The Highlander has played a critical backup role to starting first five Beauden Barrett.