A Three-Season Analysis of Positional Demands in Elite English Rugby Union
AbstractThis thesis presents novel findings relating to the position-specific locomotive and performance-related characteristics of elite (club) level rugby union players in England using data gathered via global positioning systems and time-motion analysis over three seasons (2010 – 2013). In terms of sample size, this investigation represents one of the largest conducted and therefore provides information that is more representative than any published thus far. Moreover, the findings reported in the first study (of this thesis) directly challenge the practice adopted previously by researchers in this field of not considering the running capabilities of individual players when calculating their locomotive activities. The consequence of this is that for certain measures (involving speed zones), the values reported herein are a more appropriate reflection of elite players’ movement patterns than has been previously reported. For example, it emerged that had previous approaches been used, the average distances covered by players in a match would have been either under- or over-estimated by up to ~ 80% in high intensity running (HIR), and 86% in sprinting. In adopting subsequently the use of speed categories defined in relative terms, position-related differences were observed in locomotion. Namely, as a group, the backs covered the greatest distances, with the scrum half position covering the most (6,542 m) and the tighthead prop the least (4,326 m). The outside backs were found to “sprint” the most, albeit up to ten times less than previously reported. Similarly, position-specific performance behaviours were identified, with the forwards participating in ~ 40% more static exertions than the backs, the second row involved in the most rucks (~ 34% of team total) and the back row the most tackles (12 per match). Among the backs, different demands prevailed; the scrum half executed most passes (over 50% of team total), whereas the inside backs engaged in most tackles (8 per match) and the outside backs carried the ball the most (7 times per match). When broken down into 5-minute periods of play, notable changes in demands were evident. For instance, reductions in total distances (~ 7%), and distances at HIR (~ 16%) occurred in 5 the second half compared to the first, implying that the onset of fatigue and/or the employment of pacing strategies. Moreover, reductions in HIR following the most intense periods of play were seen (when compared to the average) for the inside (~ 23%) and outside backs (~ 20%), as was the number of static exertions for the front row (~ 21%), back row (~ 24%) and outside backs (~ 45%), suggesting the occurrence of ‘transient fatigue’ during a match. Collectively the current research provides a comprehensive overview of key physical demands of English Premiership rugby union. Not only does it provide ‘typical’ position-related data, but also provides some insight into the most intense scenarios for elements of locomotive movement and static exertions, which together could assist practitioners/coaches in devising individualised training programmes to prepare players optimally for competition.
CitationFinnigan, N. (2015). A three-season analysis of positional demands in elite english rugby union. (Doctoral dissertation). University of Chester, United Kingdom.
PublisherUniversity of Chester
TypeThesis or dissertation
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