Almost every professional rugby player will have come through the academy of a team. The academy tends to be a great way for players to progress into the first team. Academy players often have to follow a similar routine to the first-team players, even though they are not compensated the same.
Do Rugby Academy Players get paid? Rugby academy players do get paid as they are still full-time rugby players even if they are not playing at a high level for a first team.
Academy rugby players are paid as they are still considered professional rugby players. Academy players do not really have time to have another job because of the time commitment needed. Academy players will still follow the same full-time routine as the players in the first team.
This means that they have the training, gym sessions, recovery and classroom work to worry about so they need to be paid for the large time commitment. Although they are not paid as much as the players in the first-team squad, they are still paid a full-time wage.
How much do rugby Academy players get paid UK?
The exact wages of rugby players is often difficult to know as there is not as much information on those wages as in sports like football. However, we do have an estimate for the average that academy players are paid if they play in the UK.
On average, rugby academy players earn between £15,000 and £25,000 usually depending on their quality and how involved they are with the first team. Academy players who are seen to be very promising and highly likely to progress to the senior squad will likely be closer to £25,000, with players with less experience likely to be closer to £15,000.
This estimate is not always the case and there are certainly some exceptions. The Covid-19 pandemic highlighted the difficulties in rugby pay. When a pay cut for Premiership players were being discussed, the impact on academy players was one of the things highlighted because they are the lowest-earning players.
Christian Day who is a former two-time English Premiership and Challenge Cup winner, spoke about those difficulties as he is a player liaison officer for the Rugby Players Association. Day said that some academy players earn as little as £8,000 per year which is minimum wage in some cases.
What is the best rugby academy in England?
Pretty much all of the Premiership teams in the top tier have good academies that produce international players, but there are a few slightly above the rest.
Saracens have certainly had their fair share of criticism for breaching the salary cap and this did have some impact on the teams’ success. But a huge part of their success is also down to being able to produce incredibly talented players from their academy.
Owen Farrell is the team’s star product, having joined the academy at the same time that his father Andy was playing in the first team. Farrell is an international superstar and a key part of Saracens’ success over the last decade. The team’s other international superstar is Maro Itoje, who joined Saracen’s in their academy at the age of 17.
Current starters who have also progressed through the academy ranks include Alex Goode, Max Malins and Ben Earl who have all also represented their country. Saracens have not always been able to hold onto the talent produced through their academy. Former academy product Joel Kpoku was crucial to Lyon winning the Challenge Cup in 2022.
This success continues back before Saracens had all of their success as their academy has produced some excellent players for a long time. England’s starting second row in the 2019 World Cup Final was a former Saracens academy partnership with Itoje joined by George Kruis.
Saracens’ success has largely come from some brilliant academy products and they have to be rated as one of the best academies in England.
Being the most successful team in English domestic rugby means you must have produced a few good players over the years. The Leicester Tigers academy has produced some greats over the years and some key parts of the teams’ success.
Martin Johnson is likely the team’s most successful academy product. Johnson captained England to the 2003 World Cup title, around 14 years after first making his debut for the Tigers. The Leicester team of the 1990s that was so successful was built on academy products like Johnson, Rory Underwood and Graham Rowntree.
They produced another excellent batch of players around the start of the 2010s, with Ben Youngs, Manu Tuilagi and Dan Cole all coming through the academy at Leicester before becoming seasoned England internationals, with all three featuring in England’s 2019 World Cup final loss.
The academy had gone quiet for a few years which was part of the reason for Leicester’s declining form towards the end of the 2010s. But the Premiership title-winning team has been spurred on by a lot of youngsters making their way through the academy and into the first team.
Freddie Steward is likely the star man of this group, having progressed through the Leicester Tigers academy. Steward is now rated as likely the best full-back in the world and one of the first names on the team sheet for England. Jack van Poortvliet might now have featured in that 2022 Premiership final, but he is likely England’s starting scrum-half for the future.
Guys like Nic Dolly, Ollie Chessum, George Martin and Dan Kelly have also progressed through the Leicester academy and all have made their England debuts over the last couple of years.
Particularly at the moment, it is difficult to say which is the better academy out of the two mentioned. Historically, Leicester Tigers academy have been crucial to the success of the club and to England. The Tigers still look like the best academy in England, mainly down to a brilliant crop of players coming in the last few years.