Two French rugby clubs are set to enter a bidding war in the new year in an attempt to lure All Black first five Beauden Barrett following the Rugby World Cup in 2019.
Barrett has played a monumental role in another outrageously successful All Blacks year to date. The men in black have scored 52 tries so far, the most by any top-tier country, and have scored the most tries every calendar year since 2010. Barrett has scored six, five of which were against Australia (with four in the second Bledisloe Cup Test), which equals Ben Smith’s 2013 record of tries scored against Australia.
While Barrett may opt to stay in New Zealand after the World Cup, lucrative overseas offers could prove too good to pass up.
The star flyhalf taking a sojourn to Japan would very much be the preference for New Zealand Rugby, who prefer their All Blacks to take lucrative breaks in the short and relatively less taxing Top League season, which effectively allows them to top up their salary while remaining with reaching distance of both the All Blacks and Super Rugby.
At a press conference in Toyko today Barrett said “there was a lot to like about Japan” and there was good open communications between the coaches, his management and New Zealand Rugby and at the right time he would make a decision.
While a move to the Top League in 2020 is still a very real possibility and the most likely, the pull of top-class competition in Europe and an enormous pay cheque could yet lure the back-to-back World Player of the Year winner.
Two French sides now appear to be now leading the race for the Hurricane, with Montpellier Herault’s interest in the player waining as they look to spend their salary cap in a less top-heavy manner.
New Zealand born Montpellier headcoach Vern Cotter told RugbyPass recently “As much as everybody says there’s money in France, we’re all run very strictly by salary cap, and I think financially the Premiership teams have probably got the nudge on us – even if we have money, we still can’t spend it.”
“We have an envelope, we can only spend within it and you’ve got to have a 45-man squad now. Gone are the days where you got through a season at this level with 30 players. You’ve got to budget for 45 players and everybody has to have a piece of it.
“The big-spending French clubs is almost a myth now. The demands of rugby require big squads to get through long, hard seasons and marquee players in English clubs have definitely got a financial advantage over French clubs. We’ll see less and less big-spending French clubs unless there’s a change in the salary cap regulation.”
Top 14 clubs must also ensure 55% of their elite squads and 14 of their match-day players are home-grown, either by spending three years in a French academy before the age of 21, or by being registered with the FFR for five years prior to turning 23.
As reported by L’Equippe in September, Lyon are prepared to make an offer in the region of €1.5 million per season.
Despite this massive bid, the more established Racing 92 are still favourites – according to reports in the New Zealand Herald – to win his signature should he come to France. Last year’s Champions Cup finalists famously counted Dan Carter among their flock until his move to Japan at the end of last season.
Lyon are the new rich of the Top14, and have a willingness to compete for the largest names on the global stage. The club have the 5th highest budget in the league, with €29.8m at their disposal.
This doesn’t mean they can exceed the salary cap of course. Last month League National de Rugby (LNR) in France have confirmed the new cap which will be in place for the next three seasons.
The LNR have set the cap at €11.3 million euro per season, or roughly 10 million pounds sterling. Spread over a squad of 35, that works out at an average of €322,000 per player.
That’s just under 43 per cent larger than that of the Premiership.
However, Gallagher Premierships clubs are allowed two Excluded Players whose salaries sit outside the cap, enabling clubs to recruit and retain world-class talent.
Within the £7 million Salary Cap ceiling, clubs are encouraged to develop homegrown talent by accessing up to £600,000 of Home Grown Player Credits.
Wherever he decided to go, it will almost certainly break Dan Carter’s record salary at Racing.
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