A rugby ball and football are not dissimilar in size and shape – not quite spheres, a bit oblong – so it may not surprise some to learn that rugby was originally known as rugby football. It eventually split into two, rugby league and rugby union, governed by the “Rugby League International Federation” and “International Rugby Union,” respectively.
Rugby is an incredibly popular sport in many nations, including New Zealand, France, Australia and the United Kingdom. It hasn’t quite achieved the same level of popularity in North America, which is likely one of the reasons that not many rugby players are known by name in nations outside the rugby core. Sure, everyone has heard of the New Zealand haka – if you haven’t, it’s a traditional war cry or challenge from the New Zealand’s ancestors, the Maori, that many New Zealand teams perform, most notably the All Blacks. However, many North Americans would be hard pressed to name more than one rugby team, let alone individual players. Of course, the players are often featured in lists and photo spreads where international audiences can drool over their well toned physiques, but that's not exactly the same as being respected for your dominance on the field.
Despite this, the sport's popularity in certain nations means that some of its best players do get pretty handsome salaries. It’s a good thing, too – if you’ve ever seen a rugby game, you’ll see just why it’s often called the most brutal and physically demanding sport one could play. In addition to nations like Australia and New Zealand, rugby is also popular in nations like Samoa, Madagascar, and Fiji. While the top players are compensated well, it’s by no means anything in comparison to the salaries that athletes playing professionally in the NFL, MLB, or NBA make. The top earning rugby player of 2015 earns a wage comparable to many average second-string players in other professional sports. They earn a fair wage, but it seems rugby players must play predominantly for the love of the game.
Here are the 10 highest paid rugby players for the year of 2015, with salaries in British pounds to reflect the popularity of the sport in the UK. All figures taken from telegraph.co.uk.
10 Jamie Roberts (£380,000)
9 Bakkies Botha (£389,000)
8 8. Thierry Dusautoir (£408,120)
7 Morgan Parra (£436,000)
6 Bryan Habana (£474,600)
5 Johnny Sexton (£494,000)
4 Sam Burgess (£500,000)
3 Leigh Halfpenny (£600,000)
2 Matt Giteau (£700,000)
1 Dan Carter (£1,000,000)
Given the incredibly strong ties between New Zealand and rugby, it likely comes as no surprise that the highest paid rugby player in 2015 hails from the land of the Kiwi. Popular team Racing Metro offered Carter an astounding one million pound salary, partly from his base salary and partly from his many endorsement deals. He’s been a hugely successful member of the New Zealand national team for nearly his entire career, and played provincially with Canterbury over the years as well as with the Crusaders in Super Rugby. His mega-bucks paycheck means he’ll likely stay in Paris for awhile with Racing Metro 92. The question is, will someone try to lure him away with a higher salary? He's a very recent addition to the French team, so only time will tell.
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