Highest-paid rygby players. Photo: KnowInsiders
Highest-paid rygby players. Photo: KnowInsiders

Who are the 10 Highest-Paid Rugby Players 2021/22?

#1. Handre Pollard (Montpellier) – £1m

#2. Charles Piutau (Bristol Bears) – £1m

#3. Eben Etzebeth (Toulon) – £900k

#4. Finn Russell (Racing 92) – £850k

#5. Cheslin Kolbe (Toulon) – £850k

#6. Maro Itoje (Saracens) – £800k

#7. Virimi Vakatawa (Gloucester) – £780k

#8. Beauden Barrett (Suntory Sungoliath) – £780k

#9. Michael Hooper (Toyota Verblitz) – £750k

#10. Owen Farrell (Saracens) – £750k

Top 10 Highest-Paid Rugby Players 2021/22

#1. Handre Pollard (Montpellier) – £1m

Photo: KEO.co.za
Photo: KEO.co.za

The Springbok enforcer is in the midst of a three-year deal in the south of France and is widely reported to be earning just shy of £1m.

He was born on 11 March 1994 in Somerset West, a town in the Western Cape. The area is particularly known for its vineyards. South Africa might be best known for their fearsome forward pack but they also need someone pulling the strings behind them.

Handré Pollard – a true all-round ten, who can kick, pass, run and tackle – did just that at the 2019 Rugby World Cup as he helped the Springboks lift the Webb Ellis trophy for the third time.

#2. Charles Piutau (Bristol Bears) – £1m

Photo: Sky Sports
Photo: Sky Sports

For some time, the speedster has been reported to be earning £1m at Bristol Bears and he became the first player in British rugby to do so when he joined the club from Ulster.

He is a New Zealand rugby union player. He plays in the fullback (and occasionally wing) position for England club Bristol Bears in the Premiership, and formerly for New Zealand's national team the All Blacks.

Piutau made his debut for Auckland in 2010, his first year out of high school, and was named Auckland Under 20 player of the year. He was brought into the Blues squad to cover injuries at the tail end of the 2012 Super Rugby season and proved his skills with two 'man of the match' appearances.

On 1 April 2015, it was announced Piutau would join Irish club Ulster from the start of the 2016–17 season.

Piutau signed for English club Wasps in the Aviva Premiership during the 2015-16 season. During his season at Wasps, Piutau had a strong impact. He scored a try in the 80th minute against Exeter Chiefs in the European Rugby Champions Cup quarter-final to help Wasps reach the semi-final. Piutau was nominated for the Aviva Premiership Player of the Season and was named in the Team of the Season.

In August 2017, Ulster confirmed that Piutau would be leaving the province at the end of the 2017–18 Pro14 season to join Bristol Bears.

Piutau joined the All Blacks training squad during the 2013 Super Rugby season. On 22 June, he made his test debut against France in New Plymouth. He was not selected for the 2015 World Cup, a factor in his decision to move to play club rugby in Europe.

#3. Eben Etzebeth (Toulon) – £900k

Photo: SA Rugby magazine
Photo: SA Rugby magazine

The Springbok enforcer is in the midst of a three-year deal in the south of France and is widely reported to be earning just shy of £1m.

Etzebeth was marked out as a player of huge promise from an early age when playing for Hoërskool Tygerberg in Cape Town and he entered the Western Province youth structures in 2009, featuring in the Under-18 Craven Week tournament. In 2011, his career moved up a gear when he was part of the UCT Ikey Tigers side which won the Varsity Cup, however injury stalled his progress in the second half of the year and he was unable to play any part in the 2011 Currie Cup.

His injury didn't stop him from being named in the Stormers squad for the 2012 Super Rugby season. He recovered from injury in time for the start of the campaign and debuted on 25 February 2012 against the Hurricanes. In total, he made 13 appearances during the season and managed to score 1 try as the Stormers won 14 of their 16 league matches before eventually losing to the Sharks in the semi-finals.

International commitments kept him out of the early stages of the 2012 Currie Cup, but he returned at the tail-end of the tournament, winning his first 3 Western Province caps and helping them to lift their first Currie Cup title since 2002. He was awarded the Man of the Match award as Province gained revenge on the Sharks with a 25–18 win in Durban.

Injury ruled Etzebeth out of the first half of the 2013 Super Rugby season, but he returned for the second half of the campaign, playing 8 matches and scoring 1 try. He also won a team-high 47 lineouts and effected 8 steals on opposition throws. For the 2013 Currie Cup, Etzebeth was again missing for large chunks of the season due to Springbok commitments, however he once again returned for the final 3 matches of the season. This time he was unable to stop the Sharks from regaining the Currie Cup by turning the tables on Western Province with a 33–19 win in Cape Town.

The first 6 months of 2014 saw Etzebeth a foot injury sustained while on international duty in November 2013 ruled him out of the entire campaign. He remained committed to both of his Cape Town-based sides and in April 2013, he signed a deal that would keep him tied to Western Province and the Stormers until 2016.

Etzebeth was yellow-carded following a fight with Blues loose forward Akira Ioane in 2017.

#4. Finn Russell (Racing 92) – £850k

Photo: The Herald
Photo: The Herald

The talented fly-half signed a new three-year deal with Racing 92 last year. The Rugby Paper report he is earning as much as £850,000 with the Paris-based club.

Scotland fly-half Russell is already understood to be one of the highest-paid players in the world with Racing 92, with whom he first joined from Glasgow Warriors in 2018.

The 28-year-old has been a massive success at the French club, whose style of play perfectly suits the attack-minded fly-half.

However, in recent years Japanese clubs have been offering increasingly lucrative salaries to lure some of the biggest names in the sport, such as All Blacks star Beauden Barrett and Wallabies captain Michael Hooper.

The majority of high-profile foreign players to have joined Japanese clubs are from southern hemisphere giants New Zealand, South Africa and Australia, which would make Russell the most significant European player to play in Japan.

#5. Cheslin Kolbe (Toulon) – £850k

Photo: RugbyPass
Photo: RugbyPass

The speedster hit the financial jackpot with his summer switch from Toulouse to Top 14 rivals Toulon. He now warns an annual salary of €1million after they buy out the remainder of his contract from the recent league/Champions Cup double winners.

A team-mate of Dupont at Toulouse, Cheslin Kolbe wasn’t able to show us his international credentials in 2020 due to coronavirus.

But the South African can afford to take a year out from the Springboks stage and still be considered one of the best rugby players on the planet. Kolbe scored in the 2019 Rugby World Cup final victory over England and has been integral to the Springboks’ resurgence to the top of the international pile.

Kolbe is the grand master of the side-step. Happy to run with the ball gripped in his hand, the 27-year-old has the balance and vision to overcome practically any one-on-one situation.

He attracts attention thanks to those dazzling feet and is arguably the most entertaining player currently in world rugby.

Hailing from Cape Town, the former Stormers superstar moved to France in 2017 and hasn’t really looked back. Consistency has been key but what Kolbe offers more than anything else is the exciting prospect of being able to a turn a game in an instant. You can’t take your eyes off him.

#6. Maro Itoje (Saracens) – £800k

Photo: Rugby World
Photo: Rugby World

When Itoje was rumoured to be interested in joining Racing 92 last year, club president Jacky Lorenzetti let slip that the lock wanted €1million for the deal to go through.

Exact figures on Itoje’s current salary at Saracens vary but it is widely reported that he is bringing home in excess of £800,000.

The brain and brawn inside England’s pack, Maro Itoje has developed into arguably the best lock in world rugby.

He is almost impossible to wriggle out of during a maul and can turn over balls in a flash. Still aged just 26, Itoje has plenty of international and domestic rugby ahead of him.

There is likely to be no one sooner on Warren Gatland’s Lions team sheet than Itoje, who played in all three Tests against the All Blacks in 2017.

His one downfall was an inability to handle the brunt of South Africa’s forward line during the 2019 Rugby World Cup final. Yet in Itoje England have a presence and a tactician who can inspire them to glory down the line.

#7. Virimi Vakatawa (Gloucester) – £780k

Photo: Planet Rugby
Photo: Planet Rugby

Last year, Les Bleus’ centre signed a huge contract with Racing 92, according to reports in France.

Virimi Vakatawa (born 1 May 1992) is a New Zealand-born French Rugby Union player who plays for Racing 92 in the Top 14 and the French national team. His position is wing and centre. He joined the French 7s team in 2014 and in January 2016, he was included in the French national team for the 2016 Six Nations Championship.

Vakatawa was recruited by France-based Fijian winger Sireli Bobo and joining Racing Métro 92 in 2010. He was mentored by another former flying Fijian in Simon Raiwalui. He played his first game in the 2010–11 Heineken Cup where he scored his first try against Leinster.

On 13 June 2017, it was confirmed that Vakatawa would be rejoining Racing 92 for the 2017–18 season.

#8. Beauden Barrett (Suntory Sungoliath) – £780k

Photo: Sky Sports
Photo: Sky Sports

On his year out in Japan with Suntory Sungoliath last year, the Daily Mail reports Barrett earned £780,000.

When international teams prepare to face New Zealand much of their concern is on how to stop Beauden Barrett running the show.

The 29-year-old was outstanding in the 2015 Rugby World Cup and is now the marshal of this All Blacks side. The fly-half averages a try every two-and-a-half international matches – a remarkable feat for a player who can easily offload to the blisteringly dangerous New Zealand backs.

A two-times world player of the year, in 2020 Barrett joined Blues after nine seasons associated with rival Super Rugby side Hurricanes.

He has a contract until 2023 – the next World Cup will be staged in France – and the deal includes the option to play in Japan, where he will feature for Suntory Sungoliath in 2021. At 29, Barrett still has plenty of gas left in the tank.

#9. Michael Hooper (Toyota Verblitz) – £750k

Photo: Planet Rugby
Photo: Planet Rugby

Last season he took a sabbatical in Japan and is reported to have been earning £750,000 with Toyota Verblitz.

Michael Hooper is an Australian rugby union player who is the captain of the Waratahs in Super Rugby and the national side the Wallabies. His playing position is an openside flanker.

Hooper made his Brumbies debut in 2010, as stand-in for the injured George Smith.

After a breakout season for the Brumbies in 2012, he was signed by the New South Wales Waratahs for the 2013 season. 2012 had been a standout year for Hooper who won numerous accolades including Best Forward (for the Brumbies), the ARU's Rookie of Year and placing third for the John Eales Medal after playing less than half of the polling games.

In 2013, Hooper played every Waratahs Super Rugby game of the season and he won the Australian Super 15 Player of the Year award, as well as the Waratahs' Player of the Year award.

On 1 March 2014, Hooper was named captain for the Waratahs' clash with the Queensland Reds after team regular Dave Dennis was ruled out due to injury received in the Waratahs' first game of 2014 against the Western Force. Hooper led the Waratahs to a 32-5 win over the Reds at ANZ Stadium and went on to play all the remaining games of the 2014 season including the Grand Final against the Crusaders in which he captained the side to a 33–32 win at ANZ Stadium.

In August 2020 it was announced that Hooper had signed to play for the Japanese Top League club Toyota Verblitz for the 2020–21 season, marking his first serious move to play domestic rugby outside the Super Rugby since starting his career with the Brumbies in 2010.

#10. Owen Farrell (Saracens) – £750k

Photo: beIN SPORTS
Photo: beIN SPORTS

The England skipper is heading into the final year of his contract at Saracens and is reported to be earning a substantial amount of money on his current deal with a number of unknown bonuses thought to be included.

It took a while for England fans to be convinced of Owen Farrell playing at fly-half but the Saracens mastermind has, over the years, become a focal point for club and country.

Not since Jonny Wilkinson have England had a penalty kicker so reliable – and at the age of 29 Farrell is at the peak of his career. England enjoyed a stellar Autumn Nations Cup run with Farrell at the helm and, while he is now set to play at least a season in the second-tier Championship with Saracens in 2021, it’s likely the Wigan lad will be in the Lions squad come the summer.

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