Rugby originated as one of the several versions of football played in England during the early 19th century. Originally known as rugby football, the full-contact team sport split into the league and union codes in 1895. The rugby league, consisting of 13 players in each team, is governed by the “Rugby League International Federation”, whereas the rugby union is played between two teams of 15 players each, and it’s highest governing body is the “International Rugby Union”. Out of the two, the rugby union has become increasingly popular over the years, and rugby as a whole has often been cited as the toughest, most physically demanding of team sports.
Many people think rugby is not that popular a sport around the world, and it gets attention only during the Rugby World Cup, the Six Nations Championship or the Rugby Championship. Well, rugby (league) is among the most popular sports in England, Australia, France, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Tonga. Countries like Fiji, Madagascar, Wales, New Zealand, Georgia, Samoa and Tonga have adopted rugby (union) as their de facto national sport. Rugby union is played in over 100 countries worldwide, and the IRB has over 100 full members and 18 associate members.
Rugby’s major domestic competitions include the Top 14 in France, the Currie Cup in South Africa, the English Premiership in England and the ITM Cup in New Zealand. These competitions are always tough, and to win the league the clubs in these domestic competitions are paying players high salaries to motivate them maintain their peak performance. But, rugby players do not usually earn as high as the top, most successful players involved in Football (Soccer), Tennis, Baseball, Golf or many other sports.
Below is a list of the top 10 players who are being paid the most money in the French Top 14 League, and ultimately they are the highest-paid rugby players in the world. Clubs like Toulon, Racing Metro and a few others in the league have been spending big on players, and many of their big names are earning high figures. Without further ado, here we take a look at the top 10 highest-paid rugby players in the world.
10. Matt Giteau – Toulon – €40,000 (~$54,600 USD) per month
Matt Giteau is an Australian rugby union footballer who currently plays for the French Top 14 side Toulon. His usual playing positions are inside center, fly-half and halfback, although he started his career as a scrum-half. He made his debut for the ACT Brumbies in 2001 and the Wallabies in 2002. He was nominated for the International Rugby Board Player of the Year Award in 2004. During his career, Giteau gained 92 Test caps for Australia and 61 Super Rugby caps. After not being selected for the Australian squad for the 2011 Rugby World Cup, the 31-year-old signed a contract with Toulon in mid-November, 2011 for a monthly salary of €40,000.
9. Jamie Roberts – Racing Metro – €40,000 (~$54,600 USD) per month
Jamie Roberts is a Welsh international rugby union player who currently plays for the French Top 14 side Toulon. His favored position is at center, but he has often been utilized on the wing position and as a fullback. He was a member of the Wales squad that won the 2012 Six Nations Championship, Wales’ third Grand Slam in eight years. The 27-year-old started all five games, and scored one try in Wales’ 24-3 defeat of Italy. Roberts was honored with the Cardiff Blues Most Promising Player Award in 2007/08 and was the British and Irish Lions Player of the Series in 2009. He signed for Racing Metro in July 2013, and has a monthly salary of €40,000.
8. Bakkies Botha – Toulon – €41,000 (~$55,900 USD) per month
Bakkies Botha is one of the most decorated and highest-paid players in world rugby. He won the 2007 Rugby World Cup in France and two Tri Nations titles in the 2004 Tri Nations Series as well as the 2009 Tri Nations Series with South Africa. He also won the “Vodacom Cup” in 2001 and the “Currie Cup” in 2002, 2004 and 2009, all with the Blue Bulls. The 34-year-old’s favored position is lock, and he currently plays for Toulon in the French Top 14 league. Botha was an eminent figure in the Toulon side that was crowned the “Heineken Cup European Champions” in 2013. His monthly salary in the club is €41,000.
7. Carl Hayman – Toulon – €41,000 (~$55,900 USD) per month
Carl Hayman is a New Zealand International Rugby Union footballer who currently plays for the French Top 14 side Toulon. He played as a tighthead prop for the Otago at regional level, the Highlanders in the Super 14 and the All Blacks at international level. During 2007, it was rumored that every top club in Europe had been chasing Hayman, but he chose to join the Newcastle Falcons at that time. Hayman has been regarded as the best tighthead prop in world rugby for the past few years; the 34-year-old is strong enough to box squat 250 kg. He is being paid €41,000 per month by Toulon.
6. Dimitri Szarzewski – Racing Metro – €41,000 (~$55,900 USD) per month
Dimitri Szarzewski is a French Rugby Union footballer whose favored position is at hooker. He made his debut for AS Beziers Herault in 2002, and played five matches with the team in the 2002-03 Heineken Cup and the 2003-04 European Challenge Cup as well. The 31-year-old made his international debut for France on July 10, 2004, in a match against Canada. Szarzewski played 3 matches during the 2006 Six Nations Championship, scoring a try in the 21-16 victory over Wales. He currently plays for the French Top 14 side Racing Metro, and is the second-highest-paid player in the club with a monthly salary of €41,000.
5. Thierry Dusautoir – Toulouse – €43,000 (~$58,700 USD) per month
Theirry Dusautoir currently plays for France at international level and for Toulouse in the French Top 14 league. Dusautoir is a graduate chemical engineer as well. He started to focus on rugby as a career when he was 16. Before that, his favorite sport was Judo. He is well renowned for being a strong ball carrier, possessing good speed and the right amount of strength to break tackles. The 32-year-old made his international debut for France on June 17, 2006, in a test against Romania. He currently has a monthly salary of €43,000, and is Toulouse’s highest-paid player.
4. Morgan Parra – Clermont Auvergne – €46,000 (~$62,800 USD) per month
Morgan Parra currently plays for France at the international level and for Clermont Auvergne in the French Top 14 league. His favored position is scrum half, but he occasionally plays at the fly-half position as well. The 25-year-old made his international debut for France at the age of 19 in a match against Scotland at the 2008 Six Nations Championship. Parra is particularly famous as a vocal leader of the pack, and is known in France as the petit général. He is a reliable kicker for both the national team and the league club. He has a monthly salary of €46,000, making him Clermont’s highest-paid player.
3. Bryan Habana – Toulon – €50,000 (~$68,200 USD) per month
Bryan Habana is a South African Rugby Union player whose favored position is the wing. He currently plays for the French Top 14 side Toulon and the 2007 Rugby World Cup champions Springboks. He made his international debut for South Africa in the 2003-04 World Sevens Series, and was a star in the country’s World Cup-winning squad in 2007. The 30-year-old scored 8 tries during the World Cup, equalling the record set by Jonah Lomu in 1999. Habana was named the “IRB Player of the Year” in 2007. He receives a monthly salary of €50,000 from Toulon.
2. Jonathan Sexton – Racing Metro – €52,000 (~$71,000 USD) per month
Jonathan Sexton is an Irish Rugby Union player who currently plays for the French Top 14 side Racing Metro. His favored position is fly-half, but he has also played at different positions in the back-line. He has been an emiment figure to Irish and club rugby due to his defensive play and good passing in offense. The 28-year-old is the kick taker for both club and country. He has often been described as a “class act with hardly any weaknesses”. Sexton was one of the key players during Leinster’s rise to the peak of the European rugby. Midway through the 2012-2013 season, he signed for Racing Metro on a salary of €52,000 per month, making him the second-highest paid rugby player in the world and one of the highest-paid players in Europe.
1. Jonny Wilkinson – Toulon – €56,000 (~$76,400 USD) per month
Jonny Wilkinson is one of the world’s best rugby union players with a monthly salary of €56,000. He currently plays for the French Top 14 side Toulon, and is a former England national team member. Wilkinson was a key player in the 2003 Rugby World Cup-winning England squad. He scored a drop goal in the last minute of extra time against Australia in the final. The 34-year old then suffered several injuries but came back to lead England to the 2007 Rugby World Cup Final. He was also a winner with England in the Six Nations Championship in 2000, 2001, 2003 and 2011. Wilkinson announced his retirement from international matches in early December, 2011. With Toulon, he won the “Heineken Cup European Champions” trophy in 2013.