Cruden to earn big

Aaron Cruden will become the third highest paid rugby player in the world after putting pen to paper on a two-year contract with Montpellier.

The All Blacks playmaker will earn a staggering €800,000 per season at Montpellier. Only Dan Carter (€1.4m at Racing) and Matt Giteau (€900,000 at Toulon) trump Cruden's deal of highest earners.

Wallabies utility back Kurtley Beale, with his €750,000 salary at Wasps, is the best-paid player in England and sits fourth highest on the overall list.

Toulon duo Leigh Halfpenny and Ma'a Nonu are joint fifth, earning €600,000 per season each; while Boks Bryan Habana (€474,000) and Duane Vermeulen (€450,000) are seventh and joint eighth on the list respectively.

Of the 12 top earners in European rugby, a combined total of eight are from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Eight players on the list ply their trade in the French Top 14, two compete in the English Premiership, and two play for club's in Ireland.

The salary cap in France is currently €8.6m, which is substantially higher than their English rivals who are limited to €6.5m.

Highest paid players:

1) Dan Carter (Racing 92) – €1.4m

2) Matt Giteau (Toulon) – €900,000

3) Aaron Cruden (Montpellier) – €800,000

4) Kurtley Beale (Wasps) – €750,000

5) Leigh Halfpenny and Ma'a Nonu (Toulon) – €600,000

6) Johnny Sexton (Leinster), Charles Piutau (Ulster) – €500,000

7) Bryan Habana (Toulon) – €474,000

8) Duane Vermeulen (Toulon), Colin Slade (Pau), Manu Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers) – €450,000

Photo: Rob Jefferies/Getty Images

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Mariette Adams