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The influences of rugby spin pass technique on movement time, ball velocity and passing accuracyThe success of a rugby spin pass is determined by the speed of the passing movement and the resultant velocity, distance and accuracy of the ball flight. The present study investigated 900 dominant and 900 non-dominant hand spin passes at three randomised target distances (4, 8 and 12 m), whilst players ran between 60 and 80% of their maximum speed. Two distinct types of spin pass technique were compared. One involved the player lowering their body height (‘body drop’) then raising it again prior to ball release, and the other, players maintained a more upright body position and incorporated greater arm movement. The current study assessed performance measures (velocity, spin, timing, accuracy) of the two previously identified passing techniques made from the players’ dominant and non-dominant hands. The percentage of passes which included a ‘body drop’ phase rose linearly with pass distance. The ‘body drop’ technique resulted in higher ball velocities and improved accuracy from both the dominant and non-dominant passing hands. In comparison, the more upright passing technique resulted in a faster passing movement, but was compromised by lower ball velocity and accuracy. The findings provide an understanding of how different spin pass techniques affect the mechanics of ball flight and performance.
The movement and physiological demands of international and regional men's touch rugby matchesThis study compared the internal and external match demands imposed on international and regional standard male touch rugby players. The study adopted a cohort design with independent groups. Twelve international players (mean age 27.8 ± 6.2 y, body mass 72.8 ± 3.7 kg, stature 174.5 ± 5.4 cm) and nine regional players (mean age 25.5 ± 5.5 y, body mass 74.2 ± 7 kg, stature 174.1 ± 7 cm) were analysed during nine competitive matches from the 2013 season. Movement demands were measured using a 5 Hz global positioning system (GPS), alongside heart rate and session rating of perceived exertion (s-RPE) to quantify internal load. Total distance covered by international players was lower than regional players (2265.8 ± 562.3 cf. 2970 ± 558.9 m, p<0.05). However, international players had greater relative distance (137.1 ± 13.6 cf. 126.2 ± 17.2 m·min) due to shorter playing times per match (p<0.05). Absolute high speed running (>14 km·h) was not different between groups (p>0.05), but relative high speed running (39.3 ± 12.0 cf. 26.0 ± 13.6 m·min) was higher for international players. Regional players performed more absolute low speed activity (≤14 km·h) than international players (p<0.05), whereas relative low speed activity was not different between groups (p>0.05). Very high speed running (>20 km·h) distance, bout number and frequency, peak and average speed were all greater in international players (p<0.05). Higher average heart rate, summated heart rate and s-RPE (p<0.05) indicated higher internal loads during matches for regional players. These data indicate that performance in men's touch rugby is characterised by more relative high speed running and better repeated sprint capacities in higher standard players.
A retrospective analysis of talent selection and progression within England’s Rugby Football Union Elite Player Performance PathwayThe 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.