Family is bigger than All Blacks: Sopoaga

Oct 20, 2017 - 12:12 AM Being an All Black meant everything to Otago Highlanders five-eighth Lima Sopoaga.

Then he found out he was going to be a dad.

Sopoaga couldn't find the words to express his joy after earning his second All Blacks start, replacing star playmaker Beauden Barrett at No.10 for Saturday night's Bledisloe Cup clash in Brisbane.

But the 26-year-old said he had no regrets over knocking back another rare chance to start for New Zealand so he could witness the birth of his daughter Milla.

Sopoaga was picked to replace a rested Barrett and start for the first time since his memorable 2015 debut in their Rugby Championship clash against Argentina in Buenos Aries on October 1.

It was an opportunity Sopoaga had dreamed about as a kid idolising Dan Carter.

But instead he opted to stay home to be with partner Miriam and welcome his daughter into the world.

"Some things are bigger than rugby," Sopoaga said.

"I would have missed three or four games for my daughter and how special that was.

"It (fatherhood) is pretty rewarding. It keeps you grounded and reminds you that football isn't the be-all and end-all.

"It is probably the best thing that has ever happened to me."

A close second may be his first Bledisloe Cup start.

Sopoaga was still pinching himself after being given another crack at the No.10 jersey so soon after relinquishing his Argentina chance.

"I don't think I will really be able to articulate what it means to me. To get a start this week, I feel very fortunate," said Sopoaga, who will also juggle goal kicking duties.

Sopoaga didn't have too much time to practice nappy changing in New Zealand.

He was welcomed back into the squad for the Rugby Championship finale against South Africa, coming off the bench to replace the concussed Barrett in the first half to help inspire their 25-24 Cape Town win.

Sopoaga may still be getting used to new dad sleep deprivation but the 12 Test playmaker reckoned he was finally comfortable as an All Black.

"You are coming into a team that you have always dreamed of playing for," he said.

"You are training alongside guys you grew up idolising and watching on TV.

"You are in complete awe of some of those guys.

"Over time you learn you can be yourself and actually enjoy being an All Black.

"When you first come in it's a daunting task and hard to find your feet but now I feel comfortable in my own skin."

Source: AAP






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