The game of rugby began in England in 1823, when lore has it that William Webb Ellis, a pupil at Rugby School, defied the current rules of the game by picking up the ball and running with it, as opposed to kicking it as was standard practice. Whether the story is true or not, the sport was named after the school, and the first rules of the game that eventually became rugby union football were established there in 1845. The sport came to the United States in the early 1900s, but USA Rugby wasn't officially founded until 1975. Today, USA Rugby has over 115,000 active members, oversees four national teams, multiple collegiate and high school All-American sides and an emerging Olympic development pathway. While the sport is catching on, however, the U.S. rugby player's salary has a long way to go.
Professional Rugby Player Job Description
Although games are typically played once weekly, the job of professional rugby players includes a lot of tough physical conditioning, primarily with weights and running practice. During the season in June and July, games are often played on Saturday. Sunday is a day for recovery, and Monday is dedicated to a review of Saturday's game and conditioning. Tuesday brings more conditioning and training. Wednesday is often a day off, and Thursday sees more training with weights. Friday there is a Captain's Run, which means the starting 15 will run though the game plan, and then the reserves rotate in. It’s all repeated with another game day on Saturday.
Training to Become Professional
If you are under the age of 18, you can join different age groups of players, such as under 15s and under 13s. Playing for a specific age group gives you access to scouts and a better chance of being signed by a professional club. You can also join a professional club's junior academy before the age of 18. These academies, which most clubs have, are also a good avenue to becoming signed by a professional club.
Once you're over the age of 20, you can play for a semi-professional or amateur club and hope to get noticed. If you excel on these lower-level teams you might get the opportunity to train with a professional team and eventually get a contract. Your fitness level must be excellent; rugby requires a great commitment to strength and conditioning training.
Salaries in U.S. and Europe
In Europe, the best-paid rugby players earn anywhere between $281,118 up to $140 million. As in American football, certain positions earn more than others. Outside halves and fullbacks are two of the highest-paid rugby positions. For example, the highest-paid player in the French 14 league, Johnny Wilkinson, makes about $75,000 per month. With U.S. rugby starting to catch on, the question often asked is, "How much do rugby players get paid?" Rugby players in the United States make quite a bit less. Some estimates put the highest-paid players as low as $70,000 annually. Head coach jobs were advertised in December 2018 at $82,458 per year, while conditioning coaches were offered between $53,000 and $58,000 per year.
Job Growth Trend
Rugby has been a popular sport in Europe for a very long time. In the United States, however, it's still a bit of a start-up sport, but its popularity appears to be growing. A 2017 international rugby tournament in Las Vegas drew 80,000 fans over the three-day event. More significantly, 3,000 players and 260 teams competed at nearby venues in North America's largest rugby competition, which means the popularity is trickling down to younger players. The more the sport grows in the U.S. to the point where more people will pay to watch the game, the question, "How much do rugby players make" will have a higher-dollar answer.
Heather Skyler is a business journalist and editor who has written for wide variety of publications, including Newsweek.com, The New York Times and Delta's SKY magazine. She has a bachelor's degree in English from Miami University and a master's degree in writing from the University of Washington in Seattle. Before writing for a variety of publications, she taught business writing in Seattle.