SYDNEY - Australia's Super Rugby players were handed a pay rise and squad sizes were expanded to up to 40 players as part of a new collective bargaining agreement announced on Wednesday.
Australia's national women's team, the Wallaroos, were also included for the first time in the new deal, which was negotiated between Rugby Australia, the country's four Super Rugby franchises and the Rugby Union Players Association, and is effective from now until the end of the current broadcast deal in 2020.
The overall Super Rugby salary cap has been adjusted to a total of Aus$5.5million (US$4.3 million), with the average player receiving Aus$225,000 in 2018. Reports said this was a rise of about 10 percent.
Super Rugby franchises will also be permitted to sign between 36 and 40 players, which is an increase of at least five players on previous numbers.
Following the demise of the Western Force, which was controversially axed as part of the move to cut Super Rugby from 18 to 15 teams, the overall base of professional players involved in Super Rugby in Australia has shrunk from 175 to 160.
For the first time, the new deal will include the Wallabies, Wallaroos, all Super Rugby players and both Australian Rugby Sevens squads.
Pay equality between Super Rugby and Rugby Sevens players -- male and female -- has also been achieved, with the entry level full-time minimum salaries replicated across the professional game.
Rugby Australia chief Bill Pulver said the deal "sets our game on a strong footing heading into the final three years of our current broadcast agreement.
"We have struck a balance that will allow greater investment in the community game, while ensuring that our high-performance programs are supported to deliver the on-field success that rugby fans demand and deserve."