Steve Hansen – Lima Sopoaga exodus claim not always true

Rugby


New Zealand coach Steve Hansen has rebuffed claims that playing for the All Blacks no longer outweighs the financial incentives European rugby can offer.

He was responding to Wasps’ star Lima Sopoaga, who said he believed more young New Zealanders would leave for lucrative contracts in Europe because the All Blacks jersey had lost its allure.

The fly-half is one of several potential All Blacks who have chosen to make themselves ineligible for selection by not being contracted to New Zealand Rugby and playing in the country.

But Hansen says the experience of leaving New Zealand is not always worth the financial reward.

“We will always understand that people are going to go overseas,” Hansen told the NZ Herald. “Do we like it? No, I don’t like it when I lose guys who I think could be a real benefit to this team because my job is to make the team as strong as possible.

“He [Sopoaga] is over there now and he’s obviously loving it, and at some point he’ll take over the driving of that team [Wasps] and do a good job.

“But I don’t think there are any more going than has been and there are a lot of guys over there who think it is a grind and they report that back to the guys who are here.”

Sopoaga, 27, has played 16 tests for the All Blacks but decided to leave Super Rugby to join Wasps in January before moving to the Gallagher Premiership in the summer.

His move was the latest in a series involving New Zealand players in or near their prime, with Charles Piutau and Steven Luatua also moving to the Premiership to represent Bristol Bears and Julian Savea, Malakai Fekitoa and Aaron Cruden choosing to ply their trade in France.

But Hansen defended the policy of only selecting players from home, a move New Zealand Rugby believes is vital to keeping its top stars.

“We don’t have a commercial base like a lot of other places – we have got to create an environment where the players are well looked after from a player-load strategy.

“We are working on that with New Zealand Rugby…to try to prolong their careers so maybe they don’t have to go overseas to get that big lump of money if they could play another four or five years here and get the same money.”



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