January 11, 2018 / 4:18 AM / in 9 months

All Blacks flyhalf Sopoaga heading to Europe at end of season

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - All Blacks back-up flyhalf Lima Sopoaga will leave New Zealand rugby at the end of the season after signing with a club in Europe, the 26-year-old said on Thursday.

Rugby Union - Championship - New Zealand All Blacks vs South Africa Springboks - Auckland, New Zealand - September 16, 2017 New Zealand's Lima Sopoaga reacts after scoring a try. REUTERS/Nigel Marple

British media reported that he would be moving from the Otago Highlanders to English club Wasps next year, removing him from All Blacks coach Steve Hansen’s plans for the 2019 World Cup in Japan.

“It was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make but is one I’m at peace with,” he posted on Instagram.

“I have loved every minute of being a professional footballer here in NZ, I’ve made life long friends and memories that I’ll cherish forever.

“So here’s to 2018 one last roll of the dice before I head off to experience life on the other side of the world. I’m ready.”

Sopoaga made his All Blacks debut against South Africa in 2015 and played 16 tests but only got his second start in the loss to Australia last October as back-to-back World Player of the Year Beauden Barrett kept him out of the number 10 jersey.

He won the 2015 Super Rugby title with the Highlanders and his cool head and solid tactical game, backed up by his fine kicking from hand, should hold him in good stead in the English Premiership.

Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Peter Rutherford

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