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05th May 2017

Your favourite Irish rugby player is earning a lot less than you’d think

Same goes for Dan Carter and the lads

Patrick McCarry

Forget what you’ve read in the newspapers or online. That’s according to Ronan O’Gara, at least.

Ireland’s top rugby players are earning a decent wedge but it won’t be enough to see them put the feet up after they retire. Earlier this week, Midi Olympique published a list of rugby’s top earners. None of the top 10 were Irish but a couple were not far off.

At present, Johnny Sexton and Jamie Heaslip are the top earning Irish rugby players with Conor Murray not far away.

During a fascinating discussion about player contracts on The Hard Yards [from 21:00 below], O’Gara laid out some home truths about rugby’s rich-lists and about what players are realistically earning.

Midi has Dan Carter at €1.5m per season with Matt Giteau [€700k], Duane Vermeulen, Rabah Slimani and Leigh Halfpenny [€600k] and five other Top 14 stars on €500k in their Top 10.

“You’re making the crucial error there,” O’Gara began, “of believing Midi Olympique.

“I don’t think you should believe what you read in the papers. I really don’t.”

“For example, Dan is on a great salary but how much of that is earned off the pitch [with sponsors and corporate commitments]?”

O’Gara then went on to share some insight into Giteau’s deal with Toulon and break down how much Ireland’s top players will take home.

“You have to talk accurately, to be fair. I’d say the Giteau [salary] is inaccurate,” the Racing 92 coach said. “I’d have a fair idea of what players are earning, you know.”

When the notion of player’s wages being openly reported, as they are in America, was raised, O’Gara blanched:

“But you’re talking about the NFL. This is rugby players. The maximum salaries here [in Ireland] are €400,000.”

O’Gara’s claim is that €400,000 is the approximate figure for a basic rugby salary. Bonus payments – team and individual – vary for each player but that often increases the salary.

Corporate commitments [ie: Sexton has Aer Lingus and Topaz] can add anything up to €50,000 to €150,000 per year, depending on the player and the number of deals.

SportsJOE wages chart from September 2015 (player endorsements included)

Three year’s ago, O’Gara correctly predicted there would be a €1m-a-season player in rugby. 12 months later and Carter arrived at Racing Metro [now Racing 92].

While many expected Carter to set a reachable bar, that has not happened yet. No-one has come close.

Right now in Ireland, the wages are decent but they have levelled off. Top of the wish-list for most of our top internationals are three-year contracts.

If you can get one of those you can relax… for a while.

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