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23rd Oct 2021

Where England’s highest earners sit in relation to rugby’s top-paid players

Patrick McCarry


English rugby wages have plateaued in recent years.

The latest list of highest-paid players in world rugby has been compiled. There are two England internationals in the Top 10 while Finn Russell is being handsomely remunerated in Paris.

In terms of value for money, Montpellier never quite got there with Handré Pollard. The Springboks outhalf signed with the Top 14 side in 2019 and pitched up in France as a World Cup winner.

The £1m per season deal was pricey, but Montpellier were aiming for the stars. Pollard linked up with fellow South Africans Cobus Reinach and Jan Serfontein in a squad that contained backline talents Vincent Rattez and Geoffrey Doumayrou, with French internationals Guilhelm Guirado and Paul Willemse in the pack.

Pollard played 16 times for the French side in his first season there. Last season, they finished a poor 10th in the league standings [the 2019/20 domestic season was scratched due to the Covid 19 pandemic] but reached the Challenge Cup final and beat Leicester Tigers to finish the season with some silverware.

Pollard then set off home and helped the Boks to a Test Series win over the British & Irish Lions before setting off to Australia to finish out The Rugby Championship. With the November internationals coming up, the 27-year-old may not line out again for Montpellier until December. The club are not expected to renew his deal.

Pollard and Bristol star Charles Piutau both top a list of the 10 highest paid players in world rugby, which has been extensively reported by The Telegraph and Wales Online:

Along with Pollard, there are another couple of South Africans in the Top 10, and both of them are at Toulon. Seeking to get back to their glory days [2012 to 2015 was a trophy-laden peak], they have shelled out £1.75m in basic salary to Eben Etzebeth and Cheslin Kolbe.

Scotland and Lions outhalf Finn Russell is the highest paid European player from the reported Top 10. Racing 92 are said to be paying him £850,000 to drive on their title ambitions in Paris. There is a basic salary of £550k while the remainder is earned through corporate ties and promotional work. His Scotland teammate Stuart Hogg is reportedly on £550k per season with Exeter Chiefs.

Maro Itoje and Owen Farrell are the top English players, with Saracens managing to keep them on the books despite their season in the Championship.

As for Irish players, the likes of Johnny Sexton, Tadhg Furlong and Conor Murray would be at the top, but wages here have levelled off having climbed rapidly from 2005 to 2015.

The biggest Welsh earner is Dan Biggar, who is on a reported £600k per season at Northampton Saints. Lions captain Alun Wyn Jones is on £450,000 with Ospreys and the welsh Rugby Union.

Wages had been climbing steadily from 2009 to 2019 – with Dan Carter topping the charts at €1.5m per season at Racing 92 – but annual salaries have levelled off over the past three years. The Covid-19 pandemic has even seen many of rugby’s top stars take pay-cuts and deferrals.