Highest Paid Rugby Players From Past and Present

Highest Paid Rugby Players

/ 17 min

Rugby is a sport with a great number of supporters in New Zealand, England, Australia, and several other parts of the world. Let’s find out how much professional rugby players make as we list the highest-paid rugby players in the world, both active and retired!

Simon McDowell Is the Richest Rugby Player – NZ$55 Million

Simon McDowell Source: ruck.co.uk

Simon McDowell is the world’s richest Rugby player, his total net worth is estimated at around NZ$54 million. Let’s dive into his career:

Career highlights of the highest paid rugby player in the world

Player Overview Facts
Renowned at North Ireland Football Club
Role Center
Career Span 1987 – 1990
Current Occupation Rugby referee, Owner of Kilwaughter chemical company
Net Worth NZ$54m

All-time highest paid rugby player in stats and facts

  • McDowell is the richest rugby player in the world;
  • He gained rugby experience playing in more than 20 countries, including the Guinness PRO14, Heineken Champions Cup, U19, U21;
  • Refereed two Rugby World Cups, 2007 and 2011;
  • Played senior rugby as a centre for the North of Ireland Football Club (NIFC, now rebranded as Belfast Harlequins) 1987-1990;
  • Assistant Referee and TMO in over 100 tests, including Six Nations and The Rugby Championship, 2007;
  • To become the highest paid rugby player in the world, he spent approximately 1000 hours a year keeping fit on the rugby field. And while he didn’t get to be featured on the NZ billionaire list, he certainly went down in history like a stellar legend of Rugby.

What’s Simon McDowell doing now?

McDowell had an active rugby career playing for the North of Ireland Football Club (NIFC) until 1990, when he suffered an injury that brought his career to an end.

Despite the injury, McDowell became a referee in 2002, and was appointed to the World Rugby referee panel in 2003.

The highest paid rugby player turned referee

To date, he has officiated as an Assistant Referee and TMO in more than 100 matches, including the Six Nations, The Rugby Championship, and the 2007 and 2011 World Cups.

While working as a referee, McDowell also oversaw operations at the Kilwaughter Chemical Company. The McDowell family owned the company and recorded £4.1m on £18.1m in sales.

Although the specific value of Simon McDowell’s annual professional rugby player salary income is not stated, sources say it highly contributes to his net worth.

Regardless, his name remains the most impressive answer to “How much do rugby players make?”.

Sir Bill Gammell: Second-Highest Paid Rugby Player – NZ$50 Million

Sir Bill Gammell Second highest paid rugby player Source: theoffsideline.com

Sir Bill Gammell has accumulated over NZ$50 million over the course of his entire career, and even after athletic retirement.

Now a successful businessman, Sir Bill Gammell progressed to an international career during his time as a rugby player.

Despite the abrupt ending of his athletic activity, he remains one of the rugby icons that new players look up to.

2019 Interview About the Future of Rugby

Sir Bill Gammell Factsheet

Player Overview Facts
Renowned at Scotland International Rugby Union
Role Wing
Career Span 1977 -1978
Current Occupation Chairman of Winning Scotland
Net Worth + NZ$50m

Sir Gammell’s trophy cabinet

  • Achieved full senior cap for Scotland in 1977;
  • He scored two tries on his debut against Ireland at Murrayfield in 1977;
  • Scored four tries in the Scots’ 74-9 victory against Japan in 1977 in Tokyo.

Current occupation

After Gammell’s career ended due to an injury in 1977, he decided to invest in oil and gas. Using venture capital, Gammell set up an Edinburgh-based tiny exploration company named Cairn Energy in 1981.

The business went live on the stock market in 1988 and expanded internationally.

By the time Gammel stepped down as Chief Executive and assumed the role of Non-Executive Chairman in 2011, the company was already worth billions.

Currently, Gammell is:

  • Director of the Scottish Institute of Sport and Artemis AiM VCT plc;
  • Chairman of Winning Scotland, a charity he founded to build confidence in young people in 2013;
  • A British Olympic advisory board member;
  • On the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games board.

His awards include UK Entrepreneur of the Year 2004, a Knight Bachelor “for services to Industry in Scotland”, and he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 2017.

Eben Etzebeth – NZ$8 Million

Eben Etzebeth Source: sarugbymag.co.za

Active Player Overview Facts
Age 30
Nationality South African
Current Team Sharks, South Africa national team
Role Lock, flanker
National team Appearances 97
Salary £900,000 (R18-million) a year
Net Worth $8 million as of three years ago

Etzebeth: Among the highest-paid rugby players worldwide

  • Etzebeth is one of the top-three highest-paid rugby players in the world;
  • He was a notable number 4 jersey owner during his stint at Springbok;
  • He received a nomination for the 2013 IRB Player of the Year award along with other players;
  • Etzebeth was part of the South African squad that defeated England in the 2019 Rugby World Cup;
  • Being one of the highest-paid rugby players, he took part in a total number of 94 test matches with 15 points.

Charles Piutau – NZ$5 Million

Charles Piutau Source: .bristolpost.co.uk

Active Player Overview Facts
Age 31
Nationality Kiwi (New Zealand)
Current Team Bristol Bears, New Zealand Rugby Union
Role Fullback, wing, centre
National team Appearances 17
Salary £1 million annually
Net Worth around $5 million

Interesting facts about Charles Piutau

  • With an annual salary of one million pounds at Bristol Bears, Charles Piutau is currently the first out of all the highest-paid rugby players in the Premiership;
  • Piutau is a real estate investor with interests in multiple houses in Auckland, New Zealand, Singapore, Australia, and the United Kingdom;
  • Piutau’s first club was Auckland. He made his debut in 2010, his first year out of high school;
  • He was nominated for the Aviva Premiership Player of the Season and was featured in Team of the Season due to his feats in the 2015-2016 season;
  • Piutau has played for a total of four clubs earning a pro rugby player salary.

Charles Piutau and betting

Since he’s one of the highest-paid rugby players in New Zealand, many of Piutau’s fans bet on his team before all his matches. Lately, this has been achieved using the NZ best online casinos that provide sports betting services.

Michael Hooper – NZ$5 Million

Michael Hooper Source: foxsports.com.au

Active Player Overview Facts
Age 30
Nationality Australian
Current Team Toyota Verblitz, Australia national team (the Wallabies)
Role Flanker
National team Appearances 118
Salary $1. 3 million per season
Net Worth $5 million

Michael Hooper: How much do rugby players make?

  • One of Australia’s most-capped players of all time;
  • He won Best Forward (for the Brumbies) in 2012, as well as the ARU’s player of the year;
  • He played every Waratahs Super Rugby game of the season in 2013;
  • Hooper won the Australian Super 15 Player of the Year award and the Waratahs’ Player of the Year in 2013;
  • He captained the Wallabies to the runner-up position in the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

Beauden Barret – NZ$1 – NZ$5 Million

Beauden Barret Source: skysports.com

Active Player Overview Facts
Age 31
Nationality Kiwi (New Zealand)
Current Team Taranaki, Blues, All Blacks
Role First five-eighth, fullback
National team Appearances 101
Salary £780,000 a year
Net Worth $1 million- $5 million

One of the highest paid rugby players: Beauden Barret

  • He was a key member of the All Blacks team that won the 2015 Rugby World Cup;
  • He won the World Rugby Player of the Year award in 2016 and 2017. He was also a nominee for the award in 2018;
  • He is the second player to win the award in back-to-back years;
  • Barret was named the overall Sportsperson of the Year award in the Taranaki Sports Awards in 2013, 2016, and 2019;
  • He holds the world record for consecutive wins since his first test (19 wins from 19 tests).

Virimi Vakatawa – NZ$1 – NZ$5 Million

Virimi Vakatawa Source: skysports.com

Active Player Overview Facts
Age 30
Nationality French
Current Team Racing 92, French national team
Role Wing and Centre
National team Appearances 30
Salary £780,000 (€981,924)
Net Worth (if you can find) $1 million – $5 million

More facts about Virimi Vakatawa

  • He scored his first try against Leinster in his first game in the 2010-11 Heineken Cup;
  • He was the 14th top try scorer with 13 tries in the 2018-2019 season;
  • Nicknamed the “athlete of Fiji”, he is popular for his high pace, power, and ability to change running lines late on the pitch.

Maro Itoje – NZ$1 – NZ$2 Million

Maro Itoje Source: dailymail.co.uk

Active Player Overview Facts
Age 27
Nationality English
Current Team Saracens, England national team
Role Lock, blindside flanker
National team Appearances 56
Salary £800,000 per annum
Net Worth (if you can find) $1- $2 million

Among the highest-paid rugby players in England: Maro Itoje

  • He has won four English premiership titles with Saracens, three European Rugby Champions Cup titles, and three Six Nations Championship titles;
  • Selected for two British and Irish Lions tours;
  • He was voted the Lions Player of the series by his peers in the second tour;
  • He was nominated for the World Rugby Player of the Year in 2016, 2017, and 2021;
  • Selected to be the European Player of the Year in 2016.

Handre Pollard – NZ$1.5 Million

Handre Pollard Source: sarugbymag.co.za

Active Player Overview Facts
Age 28
Nationality South African
Current Team Montpellier, South Africa national team
Role Fly-half, inside-centre
National team Appearances 60
Salary £62,500 per game (R1.3m)
Net Worth About $1.5 million

Handre Pollard’s statistics

  • Pollard started playing rugby as early as primary school;
  • He was the main kicker for the UP Tuks team during the 2013 Varsity Cup competition; He scored 68 points in his team’s run to the final, which made him the second-highest points scorer in the tournament;
  • Pollard has played 56 test matches and acquired 556 points;
  • He will leave Montpellier for the Leicester Tigers later this year on a £600,000 annual salary.

Finn Russell – NZ$1.5 Million

Finn Russell Source: theguardian.com

Active Player Overview Facts
Age 30
Nationality Scottish
Current Team Racing 92, Scotland national team
Role Fly-half, centre
National team Appearances 62
Salary £850,000 ($1,183,600) p/a
Net Worth (if you can find) $1.5 million

Finn Russell: Highlights

  • Russell’s height is 6 inches (1.82cm);
  • He made his debut for the Glasgow Warriors against Zebre on 10 February 2013;
  • He led the team to win the Pro 12 title triumph in 2014-2015;
  • Russell was shortlisted for the 2020 EPCR European Player of the Year award.

Cheslin Kolbe – NZ$1 Million

Cheslin Kolbe Source: olympics.com

Active Player Overview Facts
Age 28
Nationality South African
Current Team Toulon, South Africa national team
Role wing, full back
National team Appearances 18
Salary €1 million p.a
Net Worth (if you can find) $100,000 – $1M.

How much rugby players make: Chelsin Kolbe

  • Kolbe was a member of the South Africa Sevens team that won a bronze medal at the 2016 Summer Olympics;
  • He was also a member of the South African team that won the 2019 Rugby World Cup;
  • He scored South Africa’s second try in the final minutes of the final;
  • Being one of the highest paid rugby players, Kolbe has successfully played four positions, including wing, fullback, fly-half and centre;
  • He was nominated for 2019 World Rugby Player of the Year;
  • He is one of the fastest Rugby players, with a 10.70 for the 100m;
  • He is the South African player of the year for 2021.

How supportive are Chelsin Kolbe’s fans?

At present, numerous Kolbe fans bet on his team before matches using the best mobile casinos available in New Zealand.

How Much Do Professional Rugby Players Make?

How Much Do Professional Rugby Players Make

The average professional rugby player salary is $70,000 per annum. However, it can vary depending on the country and league.


In the United Kingdom, the average rugby player salary of an established premiership athlete is around 100k -150k per annum.

Depending on the club, the skill and the popularity of the player, he can earn from 500k to 800k per year. Concerning salaries, New Zealanders should be proud to know that Wheelchair Rugby players also register impressive annum salaries, with some top players earning more than 260k per year, so no discrimination takes place when it comes to financial rewards.

But how much do rugby league players get paid in the United States?

While there aren’t any fixed amounts, star players in Major League Rugby earn between $50,000 to $60,000 per year.

From Rookie to a Pro: Rugby League Players Income

Career Stage Minimum Earnings Top Salaries
Academy players NZ$ 18,000 NZ$ 50,000
Squad member NZ$ 75,000 NZ$ 150,000
Pro player NZ$ 150,000 NZ$ 250,000+

While many players choose rugby because they love the sport, a rugby player salary is usually difficult to overlook.


A full professional rugby player salary is obtained from several sources, which must all be reported to the Rugby Union authorities in each state. This is to ensure that salary caps aren’t exceeded by teams.

However, there is no limitation to the rate at which a rugby player salary can grow.

To earn pro rugby salaries like Tuivasa-Sheck and Aaron Cruden (who earn more than the stipulated salaries), a young or squad player needs to work on his playing skills, reach the national team, and get noticed.

Do you enjoy reading sport-related articles regarding New Zealand’s best athletes?

Our team of experts has created numerous articles on different topics of interest regarding the world of sports in New Zealand. If this is something you are interested in as well, we recommend you to check our our blog entries featuring the NZ Netball team and the NZ Cricket team. Additionally, you may also want to take a look at our page featuring the biggest UFC Fighters in New Zealand.

Top 4 Rugby League Players & Their Income

Rank Player Name Team Salary
#1 Tuivasa-Sheck Auckland Blues NZ$400,000
#2 Beauden Barrett Taranaki NZ$1M
#3 Brodie Retallick Chiefs NZ$750K
#4 Sam Cane Chiefs NZ$600-650K

Compared to the USA Rugby league, the New Zealand Rugby league offers more advantageous salaries to their players.

However, the wages are smaller compared to the giant sums received by top-flight players in the English, Australian, and Asian Rugby leagues.


With an annual pro rugby player salary of NZ$400,000, Tuivasa-Sheck was named the highest-paid rugby player in the NZ Super Rugby.

Although this is a significant sum, there are some players, including athletes of New Zealand descent, that earn far above that in other rugby unions.

The two-way pay-off

Rugby excellence doesn’t only influence rugby salaries: fans who bet on their favourite teams using casino platforms may receive the following benefits:

  1. Free spins casino bonuses
  2. No deposit bonus offers
  3. Live casino offers (less encountered)

All Blacks vs Global Rugby Player Salary

After becoming the Rugby World Champions in 2015, the popularity and reputation of the New Zealand team (All Blacks) and its skilled players increased significantly.

Any time an All Blacks player gets called for a tour or competition, they earn a fee of NZ$7.500/week throughout the entire competition. This is in addition to the wages they receive from New Zealand Rugby when contracted to a Super Rugby club.


While this All Blacks salary is smaller compared to those earned in England and Australia, it is still one of the highest rugby salaries in the world.

However, individually, an All Blacks salary can reach $1 million a year. Examples include Bauden Barret and Charles Piutau, who are among the highest paid rugby players in the world.

What’s your take on the highest paid rugby players?

Do you know any other details? Check our comments section to start a conversation!

Anca Iamandi
Author Anca Iamandi Senior Author & Editor at CasinoAlpha
Tudor Turiceanu
Author Tudor Turiceanu CEO & Chief Editor at CasinoAlpha

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