Jamie Pandaram The Daily Telegraph March 29, 2014 5:00PM

IT is the greatest threat to the playing stocks of Australian rugby and the NRL ever seen; a huge $527 million television deal that will likely spark a mass exodus to French rugby.

France’s Top 14 competition, already renowned for poaching overseas talent, has signed a five-year broadcast deal worth more than double their previous agreement.

And the mandate to the clubs is clear: sign the best athletes from around the world to make the Top 14 the best rugby tournament on the planet.

ARU boss Bill Pulver is well aware of the threat to the Wallabies’ stocks, particularly after next year’s World Cup when most come off contract and can seek three or four times their annual salary.

Israel Folau, Quade Cooper, Adam Ashley-Cooper and a host of other Wallabies are sure to be heavily pursued, along with a select number of NRL stars capable of transitioning to the 15-man game.

“It’s scary, I can’t ignore it, because you’ve got northern hemisphere broadcast rights which are big compared to ours,” Pulver said.

“So their propensity to be able to pay players is going to be clear. One of the things we’ve got in Australia is the value of the Wallaby jersey, pulling on the green and gold is priceless for a player.

“That’s one of the policies we’ve got, that to be a Wallaby you’ve got to play in the domestic competition.

“But it’s a serious issue, the broadcasting deals that are done in the northern hemisphere. You’ve got France, you’ve got England, you’ve got Japan, the size of those of those economies are such that they’ve got plenty of cash to spend on players.

“It is something I can’t control, but I can make sure we’ve got policies designed to keep the best players in Australia.”

Australia’s captain Ben Mowen will join Montpellier later this year, while The Sunday Telegraph is aware of two other Wallabies players who have already made the decision to defect to France post World Cup, though they will not say so publicly.

Not only will French offers dwarf what the ARU and NRL can offer, but France’s tax system allows players to keep far more of their earnings.

Rugby players are classed as “entertainers” under the taxation laws in France, which means if they stay for two years or longer they can pay as little as eight to 10 per cent on their gross earnings.

The Top 14’s new deal with television network Canal-Plus starts at €70 million ($104 million), up from €32 million for the deal just about to expire.

Pulver said he is determined to keep Australia’s best players here, but has rejected the idea of allowing them to play for New Zealand or South African Super Rugby franchises.

“My over-arching objective is to keep Australian rugby players playing in Australia,” Pulver said.

“All the threat of money in foreign competitions, it is real, I can’t do anything about that.

“That’s why some players choose to play in France, Japan or England. But we need to create an environment where there is real incentive for them to stay here.

“I want them playing in Australian Super Rugby teams.”