All Blacks to get bigger bonus for retaining World Cup

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - The All Blacks will each get NZ$150,000 ($119,600) if they retain the rugby World Cup in 2015, a 50 percent increase on their 2011 bonus, according to a new collective bargaining agreement released on Wednesday.

New Zealand All Blacks captain Richie McCaw (C) holds up the Webb Ellis Cup after beating France to win the Rugby World Cup final match at Eden Park in Auckland October 23, 2011. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

The agreement also includes a significant increase in funding for both the men’s and women’s sevens programmes as the country chases Olympic gold at the Rio Games in 2016.

Rugby will make Olympic return at Rio with the abbreviated version of the game. Both the New Zealand men’s and women’s teams won their respective world titles in Moscow in late June.

The payment pool for the men’s All Blacks Sevens team has increased from NZ$1.6m to NZ$3.5m, allowing the side to offer players full-time contracts to specialise in the game.

Most of the All Blacks sevens players supplement their income with provincial contracts. The new agreement allows for the women’s sevens team to be granted retainers and tournament fees when selected.

The new agreement with the New Zealand Rugby Players Association also reduced the salary cap for provincial teams as part of the effort to drive down costs in the semi-professional third tier competition.

The provinces have struggled to make ends meet in recent years with the Otago union having to be bailed out by the New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) last year.

Other teams have also needed funding help from the national body with NZRU chief Steve Tew stating several times that unions needed to get their books in order if the game was to survive.

The maximum retainer has been lowered to NZ$55,000 from NZ$60,000. The salary cap will go down from NZ$1.35 million this year to NZ$1.025 million in 2015.

Last week, an independent review of the 14 provincial unions indicated a turnaround in their financial performance with a small overall surplus of NZ$500,000 across all of the teams as they cut their costs.

Costs had dropped from NZ$85 million in 2007 to NZ$66 million last year, the Deloitte ‘State of The Unions’ report showed. ($1 = 1.2540 New Zealand dollars)

Editing by Nick Mulvenney