Rugby may have originated in the British Isles, but it has grown into one of the most loved sports on the planet with avid followers spanning every corner of the earth. Until recently, rugby had been a sport played predominantly by amateurs. But with the founding and rapid growth of professional leagues in Europe, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia, rugby players around the world now get paid for playing the game they love. Salaries continuously increase and the best players can now earn over a million dollars a year, although the average salary is much less.
The face of rugby changed in a big way with the founding of professional leagues. Leagues in European countries, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand continue to attract top sponsorship and sell out stadiums. These leagues create hundreds of well-paying positions for rugby players in these countries and from abroad. Players in these leagues -- specifically players in England, France and Australia -- are the highest paid in the world. Broadcast deals between top leagues and television networks around the world further boost rugby salaries.
English Rugby Salaries
Professional rugby players in England are among the highest compensated in the world. Top players can earn more playing in France, but, on average, players in English leagues are very well compensated relative to other leagues. During the 2010 to 2011 season, the players in the Aviva Premiership -- England's top rugby league -- earned an average of 85,000 pounds sterling -- approximately $130,000. In 2010, the highest salary in the league of 350,000 pounds sterling -- approximately $538,000 -- went to Carl Hayman of New Castle.
French League Salaries
The top professional rugby players in France receive the highest salaries in the world. In fact, four of the five highest paid professional rugby players in the world all played for teams in France's Top 14 -- the most competitive league in France -- in 2011. These four players all earned over $1 million in salary in 2011 playing for Super League teams. Dan Carter topped this list as the highest paid rugby player in the world with a salary of $1.84 million in 2011.
Austrailian League Salaries
In Australia, the most important rugby competition is the National Rugby League. This is one of the top rugby leagues in the world in terms of both talent and compensation. The "Brisbane Times" reported that in 2011 the top salary paid in the NRL was $700,000 to Jonathan Thurston. The average salary among the top 42 players in the NRL during the same year was just under $140,000 as reported by Rugby publication Zero Tackle. Matt Giteau of Canberra-based Brumbies took home the largest salary in Austrailian rugby in 2011 at approximately $1.38 million.
General Salary Information
In general, rugby professional rugby players outside of the top-paying leagues earn much less. Professional rugby only exists in several dozen countries in the world and employment opportunities are limited. In some of the more humble professional scenes such as Argentina, players earned just $1,040 per month in 2009. The average salary for professional rugby players worldwide falls somewhere between the modest salaries in Argentina and the high-end salaries in Europe.