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A $1.8 million boost in salaries for the All Blacks will help retain leading players over the next three years.
The early Christmas present could see the salaries of key players such as All Blacks captain Richie McCaw and playmaker Dan Carter rise to around $650,000 per year - an increase of around $50,000 each for the top earners.
Once individual endorsements are factored in New Zealand's premier rugby players are expected to be nearing the magical $1 million annual earnings mark.
As part of the new collective agreement signed off by the New Zealand Rugby Union and Players' Association yesterday, an additional $23.1 million has been freed up for player wages through until the end of 2015.
The NZRU's $3.2 million profit - its first for five years - is a major factor in the wage pool increasing from $98.1 million to $121.2m for the next three-year period. Under the agreement, players maintain 36.56 per cent of the NZRU's revenue. Salaries will increase further with any sponsorship gains.
"Yes there is a lot more money flowing towards the players," Players' Association boss Rob Nichol conceded.
"History has shown that the earning ability of our leading rugby players continues to grow as the game grows globally. So, too, does the All Black brand and the attractiveness of sponsors and commercial partners.
"The NZRU needs to retain the top talent for the All Blacks. They need that flexibility to be able to match the market."
The All Blacks' per-week payment while in camp remains $7500, but their overall pool will rise from $14.1m to $15.9m over the same period.
NZRU chief executive Steve Tew believes the additional money will assist in competing with foreign suitors. "It certainly makes a difference. There's no doubt having more money available helps our negotiations. Time will tell if it is enough," Tew said. "All of them have delivered of that investment in spades."
Each All Black also stands to pocket a $150,000 bonus if they defend the World Cup in 2015.
The men's and women's sevens teams are also major winners.
In the lead-up to the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, Gordon Tietjens' men have seen their funds more than double - from $1.6m to $3.5m. The women's quest for gold has been backed to the tune of $1.9m.
The funding will allow both sevens programmes to move towards specialised contracting.
"We've made no secret of the goals for our sevens teams. We're delighted to have won the World Cup, but if we're going to go to Rio and have a decent crack at a gold medal then we always planned to do a number of things differently, including the contracting model for men and women," Tew said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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