Jimmy Gopperth regrets not getting opportunity to play for England or Ireland

Jimmy Gopperth's two games for the Junior All Blacks have blocked his path to potential international representation ...
HENRY BROWNE/REUTERS

Jimmy Gopperth's two games for the Junior All Blacks have blocked his path to potential international representation with England or Ireland.

Jimmy Gopperth says he would have jumped at the chance to play rugby for England or Ireland had it been possible.

A former member of the Hurricanes, Blues, Wellington and North Harbour teams, Kiwi first-five eighth Gopperth picked up the English Premiership player of the year award in London on Wednesday (Thursday NZ time).

The 33-year-old, who also won the Wasps and Rugby Players' Association player of the year gongs, has been a consistently strong performer since departing for the UK in 2009 but is ineligible to represent any other country than New Zealand thanks to his two games for the Junior All Blacks.

After picking up his third player of the year award, Gopperth told The Times not being able to play senior international rugby remained a regret.

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"For sure," he said. "I was just very unfortunate to be among a very strong group of fly halves in New Zealand at the time. When you are sitting behind Andrew Mehrtens, Dan Carter, Nick Evans, it was tough to get a shot.

"I had always dreamed of being an All Black. Playing those two games for the Junior All Blacks captured me for New Zealand. Pulling the black jersey on, I will never forget.

"Had there been an opportunity to play test rugby [for England or Ireland] I would have taken it. Test rugby is test rugby."

Gopperth's comments come just a few days after England coach Eddie Jones made it clear he had not qualms about selecting New Zealand-born players.

The quick-witted Australian selected former Crusaders halfback Willi Heinz and former Hurricanes outside back Jason Woodward in his recent England training squad under ancestry criteria, while Kiwi-born wing Denny Solomona is eligible under the three-year residency rule.

Jones told reporters at the Brighton camp that he did not care about test rugby's eligibility rules and will pick "anyone who qualifies" for England.

"It's not my job to worry about how they qualify, it's my job to pick players that qualify," Jones told the Press Association.

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"I don't care how they qualify, I'll pick them. That's the rules we play under. I obey them like any good schoolteacher does."

Despite not getting the chance to play for England or Ireland, Gopperth has still been able to enjoy success at club level in the UK at Newcastle, Irish club Leinster and London outfit Wasps.

The nuggety No 10 was the Premiership's leading points-scorer in both the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons with the Newcastle Falcons, while this season is turning out to be arguably his best as a professional.

Gopperth's form helped Wasps win 17 of their 22 Premiership games and finish top of the standings, setting them up for semifinal clash with Leicester on Sunday (NZ time).

Wasps scored more tries than any other team in the regular season and Gopperth said it had been a throwback to his days playing in New Zealand.

"It feels like I am back at home playing Super Rugby, the way we try and play," he said to The Times.

"I have played in some amazing teams. When I first started, my first years in the Hurricanes and the Wellington Lions I had guys like Christian Cullen and Tana Umaga playing outside me. Jonah Lomu was floating around when I first got there.

"I have been very blessed. We are two games away from making it an unbelievable season and one everyone will remember for the rest of their lives."

 - Stuff

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