All Black: My mental health took a pretty big hit

Former All Blacks flyhalf Lima Sopoaga has opened up on his mental health struggles after arriving in England.

Sopoaga left the Highlanders in 2018 to join Coventry-based club Wasps.

The New Zealander's poor form during his first season resulted in heavy criticism from the UK press and on social media, with one newspaper rating him as the worst signing in the Premiership.

'I probably hated the game for a lot of my first year, to be totally honest,' Sopoaga told RugbyPass. 'I definitely had moments where I thought, "I don't know if I want to continue playing rugby".

Sopoaga said his mental health 'took a pretty big hit'.

'I was naive, in that I didn't think moving to the other side of the world would have such an effect on home life and on me personally,' he explained.

'I just thought I'd come to another country, get a house, get a car, go to training, come home, and enjoy life. You’re trying to work out simple things like which supermarket do I shop at, paying this council tax and this insurance, setting my family up at the doctor. Even in an English-speaking country, that was hard.

'What made it worse was the club not doing well and me not playing well. It just all snowballed, man.'

Wasps' club doctor referred Sopoaga to the Rugby Players Association, which arranged counselling for him, while his partner Miriam also provided support.

'I was pretty unhappy for a long time but we have gotten through it,' he said. 'I’ll be better for the struggle of moving over here and not being as successful as I’d have loved to be straight off the bat.

'I’ve got two kids [daughters Milla and Isla] to run around after and they bring so much joy to my life that when you come home after a win, they don’t care, and when you come home after a loss, they still don’t care. 

'A bit of perspective is always really good for footie players because sometimes we get bogged down in wins and losses.'

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