BMJ Open Sport Exerc Med 2016 10;2(1):e000147. Epub 2017 Mar 10.
Institute for Sport, Physical Activity and Leisure, Leeds Beckett University, Leeds, UK.
Background: In England, rugby union is a popular sport and is widely played within schools. Despite the large participation numbers, the movement and physical demands of the sport and how they progress by age have not been explored.
Method: Ninety-six male rugby union players wore microtechnology devices during six rugby union matches within the education pathway to investigate the movement and physical demands of match-play. To quantify the positional differences and progression by age, data were obtained for participants at the under 16 (U16) (n=31 participants), under 18 (U18) (n=34 participants) and university (n=31 participants) levels. Players were further divided in forwards and backs. Data were analysed using magnitude-based inferences.
Results: For the movement demands, U16 total distance and 'striding' was likely higher for forwards than backs, whereas at U18, unclear differences were observed and from university players the inverse was observed (very likely). In all age groups sprint distance was likely to very likely greater for backs than forwards. Forwards had greater physical demands than backs at all age groups. For consecutive age groups, U16 had a likely higher relative distance than U18, and U18 had a likely lower relative distance than university players. Physical demands were similar across age groups for forwards, and greater for backs at older age groups.
Conclusion: The movement and physical demands of rugby union players participating in schools (U16 and U18), may not be as expected, however, the findings from university players show a similar pattern to the senior game.