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Sopoaga labelled as 'clumsy mistake'

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Wasps' signing of former All Blacks star Lima Sopoaga labelled as 'clumsy' by top UK pundit

A leading UK rugby pundit has brandished Wasps’ signing of ex-All Blacks playmaker Lima Sopoaga as a “clumsy mistake” as the former test star’s form continues to wane.

The 28-year-old, who played 16 tests for New Zealand between 2015 and 2017, joined the Coventry-based Premiership outfit from the Highlanders in 2018 as a replacement for discarded England pivot Danny Cipriani.

Despite signing a two-season deal reported to be worth NZ$1.1 million per season, Sopoaga has failed to live up to the hype since arriving at the Ricoh Arena.

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He was last year rated as the Premiership’s “worst signing” during his first campaign with Wasps by The Times, an accolade which was described as ironic given that Cipriani went on to win Premiership player of the season last year after moving to Gloucester.

Sopoaga’s struggle to find consistency has continued into the 2019-20 season, as he was left out of Wasps’ match-day squad during their 35-31 defeat to Northampton on Sunday.

He was replaced by England age-grade representative and former Auckland youngster Jacob Umaga, the nephew of ex-All Blacks skipper Tana, and was even usurped on the bench by 36-year-old veteran Jimmy Gopperth.

Sopoaga’s dramatic fall from grace led prominent rugby writer Stuart Barnes to criticise Wasps’ acquisition of the former test star while writing for The Times over the weekend.

“The signing of Lima Sopoaga was a clumsy mistake on the part of Dai Young, the [Wasps] director of rugby,” Barnes says.

“A burly South Islander with a few All Black caps and an entirely different way of playing to Cipriani was never going to ease seamlessly into the No 10 shirt.

“Wasps were never going to reproduce the beautiful balance of their all-out offence.”

While Barnes’ claims of Sopoaga being a South Islander may come under dispute considering that he was born and raised in Wellington, it’s clear that his lacklustre efforts in the United Kingdom have struck a nerve amongst the Premiership faithful.

Languishing in ninth place in England’s premier domestic competition with just two wins from eight outings, Wasps can only hope that their star man can play himself back into the sort of form that made him Super Rugby player of the year five years ago.

The picture isn’t much prettier on the continental front, as Wasps sit 10 points off the pace of a potential qualification spot in their European Challenge Cup group with just two matches remaining in pool play.

The first of those two fixtures kicks-off this weekend, when Dai Young’s side travel to France to take on Agen on Saturday before facing Top 14 club Bordeaux at home a week later.

Wasps return to Premiership action at Sixways Stadium on January 25, where the Worcester Warriors await.

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Wasps' signing of former All Blacks star Lima Sopoaga labelled as 'clumsy' by top UK pundit