Grass not all that greener for two All Blacks struggling in the UK
SPOTLIGHT: All Blacks Lima Sopoaga and Owen Franks have been struggling to say the least since settling in at their new English clubs, Wasps and Northampton Saints.
After much fanfare following their move to the United Kingdom, the pair have been disappointing in Europe.
Chris Boyd head coach of Northampton Saints describes Owen Franks performance so far as a “three out of 10” but he’s predicting better times for the tww time All Black world cup winner as is Lee Blackett Wasps head coach for Sopoaga.
The two Kiwi imports have been largely criticized and described as underachievers since moving to England – Sopoaga in 2018 and Franks for the start of the 2019/2020 season.
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Neither have played since the English season was suspended due to the COVID 19 pandemic but find themselves on opposite sides when Saints and Wasps face off on Sunday in a Midlands derby.
Both have been named on the bench for their clash at Franklin Gardens
Speaking to The Guardian Boyd said that it takes some time to adjust to British club rugby and says that “by Owens own admission and his high standards I would think he is a 3 out of 10 at the moment”
“It takes southern-hemisphere props generally quite a long time to adapt to the way people scrum in the Premiership and the way referees interpret the set piece.
“He has found it difficult to adjust, and he is not happy with where he is at.”
But Boyd who describes Franks as “the ultimate professional” expects this all to change after the lockdown break.
“He has told us it is the best he has felt in 10 years because he has had a decent break. We expect a lot more from him.”
Franks, 32, arrived in England with two World Cup winners medals and high expectations of him after illustrious 10-year careers with the Crusaders and All Blacks earning him a whopping 150 and 108 caps respectively.
Sopoaga, who has made 18 appearances for the All Blacks at flyhalf to date arrived at WASPS as the much-acclaimed replacement for the mercurial and controversial England star Danny Cipriani.
Sopoaga moved across on a reported £600,000 ($NZ1.1 million) per season contract but sadly has struggled to make the same impact as his predecessor and admitted on one occasion to RugbyPass that he “probably hated the game” for much of his first season.
However, Wasps coach Lee Blackett told The Guardian that Sopoaga, 29, was now settled after the difficulties of “bringing [his] family across the world and having to fit into one of the most difficult positions on the field’’.
“It would affect anyone and what is most pleasing for me is how much he is enjoying his rugby again. I see him every day and know he is in a really good place. When he is like that, he plays at his best.”
Blackett said Sopoaga, who had been playing fullback, was one of Wasps’ “form players” before the season shutdown.
Both players will relish getting back on the pitch again after the lockdown and no doubt are eager to repay their coaches for the faith shown in them.
Source: Stuff.co.nz & Rugbypass