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A retrospective analysis of talent selection and progression within England’s Rugby Football Union Elite Player Performance PathwayWorsfold, Paul R.; Green, Ken; Velentza, Elisavet (University of Chester, 2017-02)The England Rugby Football Union (RFU) Elite Player Performance Pathway (EPPP) is a player development system, structured into five playing squads (Under 18 [U18], Under 20 [U20], National academy [NA, age: 18-23 years], Saxons [Saxon, age: 18+ years] and Senior National Squad [SNS, age: 18+ years]), which attempts to develop players to play within the SNS. Despite its importance however, there is yet to be any scientific appraisal of its efficacy in successfully producing SNS players. Appraising the performances of 396 players enrolled on to the EPPP between 2008 and 2014, the purpose of this programme of research was therefore to investigate the nature of player transition and determine the key features associated with match performance between respective squads of the EPPP. To achieve this, the progression rates to subsequent squads, and the anthropometrical and position-specific technical performance data was quantified in conjunction with individual player progression within the EPPP system. Of the 396 players assessed within the thesis, 121 reached the SNS. Involvement in the EPPP was defined by high rates of de-selection during progression to subsequent squads and this was most apparent within the U18, U20 and NA squads. Analyses revealed the proportion of selected players for higher squads was 48.70%, 37%, 57.10% and 61% for U18-U20, U20-NA, NA-Saxon and Saxon-SNS squads, respectively. Within the SNS (n = 121), only 5.80% experienced a linear development (U18-U20-NA-Saxons-SNS) whereas all other players displayed variability with respect to squad pathway trajectories (NA-SNS 0.82%, Saxon-SNS: 50.4%, U20-Saxon-SNS 4.95%, NA-Saxon-SNS 12.39%, U18-U20-NA SNS:2.57%, U18-U20-Saxon-SNS 3.30%, U20-NA-Saxon-SNS 2.47%, side entries [selection from outside the EPPP system] 17.35%) within the EPPP. Thus, progression within the talent development (TDE) system was typified by variable patterns of sequential selection and de-selection processes throughout U18 to senior squads. The prerequisite level of technical performance indicators (TPI), related to generic and position-specific performance characteristics, and anthropometrical features (body mass and stature) specific to six predefined positional groups (front row [FR], second row [SR], Back row [BR], scrumhalf [SH], inside backs [IB], outside backs [OB]), were examined. The SNS revealed similar TPIs to the Saxon squad in all positional groups, only SNS FR were heavier (p ≤ 0.01; r = 0.18) and taller (p ≤ 0.001; r = 0.25) than Saxons FR. Likewise, the results demonstrate that anthropometrical characteristics consistently differentiated respective squads though, on occasion, there were aspects of TPIs that discriminated youth (U18) adult (U20, NA) and senior (Saxons, SNS) age international squads for the six positional groups within the EPPP. Used in isolation therefore, TPIs might offer benchmarks across the respective squads, however the extent of the observed differences between younger (U18 and U20) and older (NA, Saxons & SNS) squads suggests they could be used in conjunction with coach intuition to improve the objectivity of player selection to future squads. Where the performances of progressed and non-progressed players were considered results revealed that taller and heavier players, competing within a higher number of matches, for an increased period of time, were the most important variables influencing progression or deselection from the programme. Where the match TPIs were considered, there were stochastic differences between groups though it appeared as though selected players typically outperformed the non-selected group albeit by small margins and there were fewer differences between progressed and non-progressed in older age squads. Finally, in players selected to progress and those deselected, there was notable within-group variation in the technical demands. Such variation was typified by overlapping IQRs when groups were compared meaning selected players could perform more, or less, effectively than deselected players in any given match. Clearly, such an issue suggests that the technical performance during competition cannot be used to determine talent in such instances. Collectively, the results provide insight to the key requirements of the EPPP, which could be used to develop future coaching, scouting methods, player TDE systems by providing normative levels of attainment for aspiring players, both enrolled or not, within the elite player developmental system.