The former All Black first five eighth Lima Sopoaga has opened up about how a therapist helped reverse her form of rugby on British soil, saying it was one of the best experiences of her life.
When Sopoaga left the coast of New Zealand in 2018, he came to the side of Wasps in the Premier League demanding excellence; and by his own standards he felt he had failed to live up to those expectations.
As a replacement for England international Danny Cipriani tent, Sopoaga will have to fill his big boots and fight to gel with a wider squad.
“You have someone special like Danny, he will always be difficult to replace,” Sopoaga told the Daily Telegraph.
“I’ll never be that man. That’s not me. Besides, I can’t build relationships with the people around me as quickly as I would like to. It’s something people may not understand; that you can’t just become a person. team and click right away.
“Sometimes, I humble myself too easily and it’s just a snowball, at the same time as a group maybe in a place where we are not very confident and it just spreads to the whole club.”
Meanwhile, the appointment of a new head coach is helping his role on the team, along with the support of team doctor Ralph Mitchell and his family; Sopoaga said seeing a therapist about her mental health was an important step in turning her fortunes around.
The stigma surrounding speaking up and opening up as a footie player is beginning to emerge.
“The rugby players are seen as tough macho guys, but really, we are just like everyone else. It was one of the best things I’ve ever done.
“I would encourage not only rugby players, but men in particular, to get out of your comfort zone. It’s tough, and at first quite scary and scary, but it can also be one of the most liberating things you can do.”
That feeling of liberation has now been translated by Sopoaga into a stunning reversal of form on the pitch in this current Premier League season.
Having lost his place in 10th place to the youngsters of Jacob Umaga and Charlie Atkinson, Sopoaga has turned to full-back where he enjoys greater freedom.
Last weekend, he scored 14 points, including one attempt, in the Wasps’ crushing defeat to champions Exeter.
Ahead of this weekend’s game against Bath, Sopoaga has no doubt that he is playing the best rugby of his time in England at the moment.
“I’m probably in the happiest place mentally, and I think that helps my game,” he said. “It’s no secret I’ve struggled a lot, but I’ve learned a lot through the process and struggled to get out of it.”
She also accepted the responsibility of acting as a mentor to Britain’s first toddler at Wasps, passing on the knowledge she had been given to her by Dan Carter and Aaron Cruden.
“I am blessed to have had some bad mentors,” said Sopoaga. “Those people told me, ‘One day, you will be in this position’, and they asked me to do the same for a young boy who was coming. They were right. I am now in this position and it will cost them a lot. . which helps me in my career if I don’t pass on what I know. “
And while there is no doubt that Sopoaga has plenty of technical and strategic advice to offer, his new knowledge of the power of a healthy mental state could be of greatest worth.
– with The Daily Telegraph