This afternoon the highly respected Chris Jones of BBC Rugby tweeted "The average Top 14 club budget at €21.2m, with €7.4m of that going to player wages last season". The expectation must be with the TV money from Canal + that figure will rise this season and again next season.
The smart money sees that buying power having a massive impact on the professional game worldwide, however, here at Talking Rugby Union we believe post RWC 2015 the game in New Zealand could change forever. With help from Scott Donaldson we cast our eye on the possibilities for the All Blacks versus that French cash.
The All Blacks are the best team in world rugby, but after the Rugby World Cup 2015, they face a massive challenge as several players look set to leave New Zealand rugby. After previous Rugby World Cup tournaments there has always been the threat of a player exodus, but it has never eventuated. This time the problem is worse than any other time.
The problem lies in the fact that the core of players that have been involved in the All Blacks over the past decade like Dan Carter, Ma'a Nonu and Conrad Smith are well into their 30s and you can't blame them for heading overseas and getting some rather attractive financial packages in the twilight of their careers.
In recent times though, All Blacks and good Super Rugby players have been leaving New Zealand (making them ineligible for the All Blacks) when they are in their mid 20s, turning their back on a good five or more years potentially left playing for the All Blacks.
It was bad enough seeing good players like Bundee Aki and Gareth Anscombe leave the Chiefs to pursue overseas careers in their early 20s, but when players groomed as heir apparents like Charles Piutau and Colin Slade who have done their apprenticeships and would have been definites for the All Blacks in 2016 and beyond, it is disappointing.
These players could still return as multi-millionaires to New Zealand before the Rugby World Cup in 2019, but they will probably miss the British and Irish Lions Tour to New Zealand in 2017. This will allow other players coming through to stake a claim for their positions too, making it more difficult for them on their return, although on the flip side, it could create even more depth at the top level.
The other conundrum is, do the All Blacks selectors select players they know will be turning their backs on the All Blacks, for their Rugby World Cup 2015 squad? Do they demand loyalty from their players?
In my view, they have no choice but to select players who will be leaving New Zealand rugby post Rugby World Cup 2015, as there are so many players. The only example will be when there are two players of equal ability, then I would select the more loyal player.
There are some other concerns with the likes of Richie McCaw, Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock and probably Cory Jane close to retirement age, while some All Blacks like Liam Messam, Sonny Bill Williams and Beauden Barrett, could be selected for the New Zealand Sevens team to play in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. The depth of New Zealand rugby will be tested in 2016!
The beauty of New Zealand rugby is the depth in most positions. It is a worry that with the exception of Dane Coles, there aren't any international standard hookers left if you take out the retirement bound Keven Mealamu.
However, one look around the New Zealand Super Rugby franchises who are once again dominating the competition, you see plenty of exciting prospects who would probably be able to be successful at test rugby. Players like Damian McKenzie, James Lowe, Jordan Taufua and Scott Barrett among others will surely be bound to make it to the next level, although this could be sooner rather than later.
We thought the All Blacks would struggle to find a physically powerful winger like Vaiaga Tuigamala, but along came a certain Jonah Lomu, so the rugby production line does continue to produce quality talent in New Zealand, despite relatively small playing numbers.
Here is a team of the "loyal" players who should be eligible for the All Blacks in 2016, ironically Sonny Bill Williams is one of them. While they are missing plenty of big names, it is still an amazing team who should continue to dominate world rugby after the Rugby World Cup 2015. Kieran Read looks set to captain the All Blacks in the post-McCaw era.
All Blacks 2016 Team
15. Israel Dagg
14. Ben Smith
13. Malakai Fekitoa
12. Sonny Bill Williams
11. Julian Savea
10. Aaron Cruden
9. Aaron Smith
8. Kieran Read
7. Sam Cane
6. Jerome Kaino
5. Sam Whitelock
4. Brodie Retallick
3. Owen Franks
2. Dane Coles
1. Wyatt Crockett
16. Nathan Harris
17. Joe Moody
18. Charlie Faumuina
19. Luke Romano
20. Liam Messam
21. TJ Perenara
22. Beauden Barrett
23. Ryan Crotty
That's unless the lure of the € and lifestyle proliferate. The impact on the French national side will be just as problematic.