Sopoaga ‘a victim of team’s injuries’
Lima Sopoaga’s club coach expects the ex-All Black to start thriving once Wasps get their injured backline stars back.
Sopoaga – reportedly on up to $1 million a year – has failed to make a consistent impact since joining the English Premiership club last September, and was sinbinned in yesterday’s European Champions Cup pool match against Bath after no-arms tackle on Bath’s Kiwi utility back Jackson Willison.
But Wasps’ director of rugby Dai Young is staying loyal to his high-profile recruit, who kicked eight points in the 18-16 loss to Bath.
‘‘We always knew Lima would take a bit of time to settle in and you have to feel a bit sorry for him because he’s been trying to settle with half the team he expected to be around him being unavailable,’’ Young said before the Bath match.
Wasps have had Springboks fullback Willie le Roux, one-time England halfback Dan Robson and Kiwi veteran Jimmy Gopperth out with injuries, while former England wing Christian Wade quit to pursue an American football career.
‘‘Last season our attacking prowess was pretty special with Dan Robson, Jimmy Gopperth, Willie Le Roux and Wadey around Danny Cipriani, but we’ve had pretty much none of them playing so it’s been hard to replicate that,’’ Young said.
‘‘That’s put more pressure on Lima but we know he’s a quality player and we also know that, like most players from the southern hemisphere, you’re probably not going to get the best out of them in their first season in England.’’
Sopoaga joined Wasps on a three-year deal, estimated to be worth £500,000 to £600,000 (NZ$1.13m) per season.
Guardian rugby writer, Paul Rees, warned recently that signing an All Black was not necessarily a guarantee of immediate success for European clubs.
Meanwhile, Wasps have just released former Wellington, Manawatu¯ and New Zealand Ma¯ori wing Ambrose Curtis to French second tier club Vannes. Curtis, 26, played just one game for Wasps in a Premiership Cup match last November.
Lima Sopoaga has found the going tough in his first year with Wasps.