J Sports Sci 2018 Mar 17;36(6):645-650. Epub 2017 May 17.
a Institute for Sport, Physical Activity and Leisure , Leeds Beckett University , Leeds , UK.
The aim was to compare the physical characteristics of under-18 academy and schoolboy rugby union competition by position (forwards and backs). Using a microsensor unit, match characteristics were recorded in 66 players. Locomotor characteristics were assessed by maximum sprint speed (MSS) and total, walking, jogging, striding and sprinting distances. The slow component (<2 m · s) of PlayerLoad (PL), which is the accumulated accelerations from the three axes of movement, was analysed as a measure of low-speed activity (e.g., rucking). A linear mixed-model was assessed with magnitude-based inferences. Academy forwards and backs almost certainly and very likely covered greater total distance than school forwards and backs. Academy players from both positions were also very likely to cover greater jogging distances. Academy backs were very likely to accumulate greater PL and the academy forwards a likely greater sprinting distance than school players in their respective positions. The MSS, total, walking and sprinting distances were greater in backs (likely-almost certainly), while forwards accumulated greater PL (almost certainly) and jogging distance (very likely). The results suggest that academy-standard rugby better prepares players to progress to senior competition compared to schoolboy rugby.