Rugby players are not known for raking in the big bucks compared to football stars of American football athletes. You shouldn’t feel too bad for them though, despite the fact they may not be pulling in $20 million a year, they certainly aren’t in the poor house. Lets breakdown who is earning the most in world rugby.
Who is the richest player in rugby?
Charles Piutau, the New Zealand flyer and the South African flyhalf, Handre Pollard are the richest players in rugby. Both players earn $1.4 million per year with Piutau applying his trade in England for the Bristol Bears, while Pollard is living it up in France, playing for Montpellier.
Rugby salaries have only been growing since the game turned professional in the 90s. And this year that trend has continued with rugby’s top 10 earning adding a further 10% to their already hefty paychecks.
In the early days of professional rugby star players were lucky to be earning $100,000 per year. Things have changed quite a bit since then with now some players earning 10x that amount and even benchwarmers can usually crack 6 figures at the big clubs.
Lets take a look at the current top 10 earners in world rugby.
1. Handre Pollard/Charles Piutau – $1.4 million per year
The richest man in rugby is currently being shared by two players. The Springbok play making magician, Handre Pollard and a speed freak Kiwi by the name of Charles Piutau.
Pollard was lured away from the Bulls after joining them directly from high school and spending 6 years with the club by the French side, Montpellier. At 26, Montpellier obviously believes the former junior player of the year and World Cup winner has many great years ahead of him as they opened their cheque book and parted with the big bucks. Pollard will earn $1.4 million for his services in 2021, tripling what he was at the Bulls. Not bad for a boy from Somerset West.
Not to be out done by his South African rival, Kiwi Piutau will also be earning $1.4 million in 2021 for crossing the white line for the Bristol Bears. Piutau gave up on an All Black career when he was lured away from the Southern Hemisphere to the Wasps in 2015. All Black players are not allowed to play for non New Zealand clubs.
Piutau’s decision to abandon New Zealand rugby at the age of 23 was met with mixed reactions, with many angry. The reactions haven’t seem to affect Piutau as since coming to Europe he has consistently ranked as one of rugby’s top earners. His latest contract with the Bristol Bears has secured him the title of rugby’s richest man.
3. Eben Etzebeth – $1.2 million per year
The menacing South African Lock couldn’t just let his Springbok teammate escape South Africa with all the money. Etzebeth, like Pollard, is also playing in the French Top 14 league and making bank. In 2021, Etzebeth will be cashing in $1.2 million for winning lineouts for the formidable French side, Toulon.
Known for his scary aggression on the field and his erratic temper, I am sure many of Etzebeth’s opposition are hoping the big cheque might mellow him out and calm some of his aggression. I wouldn’t count on it though the big South African seems to genuinely enjoy playing the bully and never shies away from the aggro.
Not even his own teammates are safe from the 2m giant. Etzebeth following a training drill got into with his own teammate, grabbing his jersey and giving him a few choice words. His teammate was guilty of doing and giving some light resistance as Toulon practiced a maul. To make matters worse Etzebeth was having a go at a halfback, providing further evidence of his reputation of being a bully.
You can check out the confrontation here:
4. Finn Russell – $1.1 million
The Scottish Flyhalf was rumoured to be leaving the Parisian side, Racing 92 but when the side gave him a juicy pay bump the Scot could hardly say no.
Russell comes from humble beginnings. After high school Russell took up an apprenticeship as a stone mason, while waiting for his rugby career to take off. Russell said he often thinks about those days, saying “On rainy days it could be pretty miserable. . . . It could be tough but I enjoyed it. I’d be making window sills, door frames, fire places – even building walls. But compared to playing rugby, it’s night and day. If I ever have a bad day at training, I think back to what it was like working in that cold shed.”
It’s great to see someone living their dream and getting paid the big bucks to do so. Rugby can be a cruel game. A nasty injury could have easily sent Russell back to that cold shed and forever wondering what could have been.
5. Maro Itoje – $1.1 million
The son of Nigerian immigrants who grew up in Camden, London has dones pretty well for himself. At the young age of 26 the imposing English second rower is raking in $1.1 million per year while playing for Saracens, first signing with the club in 2012. Itoje debuted for Sarcens at the age of 19, a very impressive feat as most players don’t get a start until at least their 20s.
The London club have rewarded Itoje for his loyalty by handing him a cheque of over 800,000 pounds for the 2021 season. As many pundits pick for the top lock in the world and an almost guaranteed Lions selection, Itoje has more than earned his big salary.
When you watch Maro Itoje play you can quickly understand why he is one of the most highly paid rugby players in the world.
Standing at 6ft 5 and weighing 115kg of pure muscle, Itoje is a beast. He is a fantastic lineout jumper, regularly stealing the ball. He is incredibly mobile and quick, often busting tackles and going on big runs. Itoje is also very strong over the ball, almost playing like another backrower, as he has a strong ability to force turnovers at the breakdown.
Gone are the days where rugby players were paid peanuts. The professional era is well and truly established with more and more rugby players earning mouth watering salaries. The highest paid players are currently Handre Pollard and Charles Piutau who are both pulling in $1.4 million per year. The top 5 highest paid players are rounded out by Eben Etzebeth, Finn Russell and Maro Itoje who are all earning over $1 million per year.