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Movement Demands of Elite Rugby League Players During Australian National Rugby League and European Super League Matches

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This study compared the movement demands of players competing in matches from the elite Australian and European rugby league competitions. Global positioning system devices were used to measure 192 performances of forwards, adjustables and outside backs during National Rugby League (NRL; n = 88) and European Super League (SL; n = 104) matches. Total and relative distances covered overall and at low (0 to 3.5 m·s-1), moderate (3.6 to 5 m·s-1) and high (>5 m·s-1) speeds were measured alongside changes in movement variables across the early-, mid- and late-phases of the season. The relative distance covered in SL matches (95.8 ± 18.6 m·min-1) was significantly greater (P<.05) than NRL matches (90.2 ± 8.3 m·min-1). Relative low speed activity (70.3 ± 4.9 m·min-1 vs. 75.5 ± 18.9 m·min-1) and moderate-speed running (12.5 ± 3.3 m·min-1 vs. 14.2 ± 3.8 m·min-1) was highest (P<.05) in the SL matches and relative high-speed distance was greater (P<.05) during NRL matches (7.8 ± 2.1 m·min-1 vs. 6.1 ± 1.7 m·min-1). NRL players have better maintenance of high-speed running between the first and second half of matches, and perform less low and moderate-speed activities, indicating that the NRL provides a higher standard of rugby league competition than the SL.
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ORIGINAL INVESTIGATION
International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 2014, 9, 925-930
http://dx.doi.org/10.1123/ijspp.2013-0270
© 2014 Human Kinetics, Inc.
Twist, Edwards, and Highton are with the Dept of Sport and Exercise Sci-
ences, University of Chester, Chester, UK. Waldron is with the School of
Science and Technology, University of New England, Armidale, Australia.
Austin is with the Sydney Swans Australian Football Club, Sydney, Aus-
tralia. Gabbett is with the School of Exercise Science, Australian Catholic
University, Brisbane, Australia. Address author correspondence to Craig
Twist at c.twist@chester.ac.uk.
Movement Demands of Elite Rugby League Players
During Australian National Rugby League
and European Super League Matches
Craig Twist, Jamie Highton, Mark Waldron, Emma Edwards, Damien Austin, and Tim J. Gabbett
Purpose: This study compared the movement demands of players competing in matches from the elite Australian and European
rugby league competitions. Methods: Global positioning system devices were used to measure 192 performances of forwards,
adjustables, and outside backs during National Rugby League (NRL; n = 88) and European Super League (SL; n = 104)
matches. Total and relative distances covered overall and at low (0–3.5 m/s), moderate (3.6–5 m/s), and high (>5 m/s) speeds
were measured alongside changes in movement variables across the early, middle, and late phases of the season. Results: The
relative distance covered in SL matches (95.8 ± 18.6 m/min) was signicantly greater (P < .05) than in NRL matches (90.2 ±
8.3 m/min). Relative low-speed activity (70.3 ± 4.9 m/min vs 75.5 ± 18.9 m/min) and moderate-speed running (12.5 ± 3.3 m
m/min vs 14.2 ± 3.8 m/min) were highest (P < .05) in the SL matches, and relative high-speed distance was greater (P < .05)
during NRL matches (7.8 ± 2.1 m/min vs 6.1 ± 1.7 m/min). Conclusions: NRL players have better maintenance of high-speed
running between the rst and second halves of matches and perform less low- and moderate-speed activity, indicating that the
NRL provides a higher standard of rugby league competition than the SL.
Keywords: match demands, playing intensity, activity proles, time–motion analysis
Rugby league is a contact team sport that is intermittent in
nature, with periods of high- (running, high-speed running, and
sprinting) and low-speed activity (standing, walking, and jogging)
taking place over two 40-minute halves. Players are typically clas-
sied into 3 positional groups (hit-up forwards, outside backs, and
adjustables) based on commonalities in their eld position and play-
ing role.1,2 Hit-up forwards (prop, second row, and loose forward)
cover less distance during a match, have a shorter playing time, and
are involved in more physical collisions, whereas outside backs
(winger, fullback, and center) and adjustables (halfback, stand-off,
and hooker) often travel greater distances during a match, play for
the longest time, and are associated with running in open spaces
and supporting offensive plays.1–4
The match-running activities of team sports depend on the
standard of competition encountered. For example, team-sport
players competing at the highest standard typically perform more
high-speed running and sprinting than players competing at a
subelite standard.5,6 These ndings have been conrmed in rugby
league match play, with professional players demonstrating higher
playing intensities than semiprofessional and junior rugby league
players.7,8 Conversely, lower-ranked teams might perform more
high-speed running to counter deciencies in technical ability
during match play.9
The Australian National Rugby League (NRL) and European
Super League (SL) are the most notable elite competitions, with
the NRL anecdotally regarded as the world’s highest standard of
competition. Only 1 study has compared the playing patterns of NRL
and SL teams using video analysis,10 noting a greater proportion of
time spent by the NRL teams in their defensive third of the pitch
and a higher number of hit-ups in the opponent’s defensive third.
The introduction of global positioning system (GPS) technology
into the rugby league environment has seen several studies exam-
ine the movement and physiological match demands imposed on
players during both NRL3,11,12 and SL2,13 matches. Similar absolute
distances of 3000 to 8000 m have been reported for NRL1,3,12 and
SL2 matches. While some studies report higher relative distances
for NRL players (~106 m/min),14 others have reported similar
values of 85 to 95 m/min in both the NRL11,12 and SL.2 However,
problems in comparing studies using different movement-analysis
technologies14 and the timing of these studies make comparisons
between competitions difcult. To date, no study has made direct
comparisons of the match demands between professional rugby
league players from the Australian and European competitions. A
study of this nature would be useful to elucidate any differences
between the 2 competitions that may explain, at least in part, the
disparate tactical approaches to match play between NRL and
SL teams. Furthermore, given the dominance of the Australian
national team (NRL players) in competition with other European
nations such as England and France, such a study might help inform
coaching practices in Europe. Therefore, this study compared the
movement demands of players competing in matches from the elite
Australian and European rugby league competitions.
Methods
With institutional ethical approval (approval HMS09/1407), data
were collected during the 2011 season from 1 professional team
participating in the Australian NRL and 1 professional team from
926 Twist et al
the European SL. All data were desensitized by a third party before
analysis so that researchers were unable to identify players. Only
data from the leagues’ domestic season were included. Based on
previous studies, and in accordance with normal coaching practice,
players were subcategorized into 3 positional groups of outside
backs, adjustables, and hit-up forwards (referred to as forwards
hereafter).1,2 A total of 192 match performances were recorded,
comprising 104 SL matches and 88 NRL matches. The win percent-
ages of the matches analyzed were 44% and 50%, and the mean
score decits were 10 ± 5 and 9 ± 5 points, for the NRL and SL,
respectively.
Time–motion analysis was undertaken using portable GPS
devices (SPI-Pro; 5Hz, GPSports, Canberra, Australia) and an in-
built triaccelerometer (100 Hz). The reliability and accuracy of these
units have been reported previously.15,16 All players were accus-
tomed to wearing the GPS devices during training and matches.
Each player was pretted with an appropriately sized vest housing
the portable GPS unit between the scapulae. A standard squad
shirt (tightly tted) was worn over the top of the vest. The GPS
device was tted to the vest of the player on entering the eld for
the warm-up. All data were downloaded to a computer using SPI
Ezy v 2.1 (GPSports, Canberra, Australia) and analyzed post hoc
using Team AMS v 2.1 software (GPSports, Canberra, Australia).
Data for the entire match were recorded for outside backs (n
= 72), adjustables (n = 52), and forwards (n = 68) that totaled 192
performances. Changes in movement demands were also analyzed
between the rst and second halves (188 performances), with players
who played for less than 5 minutes of each half removed from the
analysis. In accordance with previous studies in soccer,6 changes
in movement variables across 3 different time phases of the season
were also considered (192 performances), namely, early phase
(NRL n = 29 performances, SL n = 26 performances; 10 matches),
midphase (NRL n = 30 performances, SL n = 32 performances; 9
matches), and late phase (NRL n = 29 performances, SL n = 46
performances; 6 matches). The variables recorded were duration
on the pitch (min), total distance covered (m), relative distance
covered (m/min), and absolute and relative distances covered at low
(0–3.5 m/s), moderate (3.6–5 m/s), and high (>5 m/s) speeds. The
use of these broad speed categories was deemed appropriate based
on the limitations associated with 5-Hz GPS technology.14,15 For
each player, only the time spent actively on the pitch was analyzed.
Statistical Analysis
Data were initially analyzed for violations of normality and homoge-
neity of variances using the Shapiro-Wilk statistic and Levene test,
respectively. Further checks for sphericity were performed using the
Mauchley test. Separate factorial (group [2] × position [3]) analyses
of variance (ANOVAs) were conducted on each of the dependent
variables. In addition, separate mixed-model repeated-measures
ANOVAs (group [2] × time [2]) were used to assess differences in
total distance, low-speed activity, and moderate-speed and high-speed
running between the rst and second halves of matches. Finally,
multivariate ANOVA (group [2] × time [3]) was used to assess dif-
ferences in relative distance, low-speed activity, and moderate- and
high-speed running between early-, middle-, and late-season phases
of the season. Where appropriate, post hoc analyses were conducted
using independent-sample t tests with a Holm-Bonferroni adjustment
to assess for positional differences between the 2 groups. Statistical
signicance was set at P < .05, and data are reported as mean ± SD
unless otherwise stated. Effect sizes (ESs) were calculated as the dif-
ference between the means divided by the pooled standard deviation.
Effect sizes were classied as trivial <0.2, small 0.21–0.6, moderate
0.61–1.2, large 1.21–1.99, and very large >2.0.17
Results
A signicant interaction, revealing trivial to moderate differences
in playing times, was found between positional groups in NRL and
SL matches (F2,186 = 3.82, P = .024; ES = –0.08 to 0.79), with post
hoc analyses revealing that only NRL adjustables had a greater total
playing time than SL adjustables (t = 2.76, P = .008; ES = 0.79).
A signicant moderate difference in the total distance covered was
found between positional groups in NRL and SL matches (F2,186 =
10.47, P < .001; ES = –0.63 to 0.93). Post hoc analysis revealed that
SL forwards covered greater distances than those in NRL matches
(t = 3.28, P = .002; ES = –0.63) but that NRL adjustables covered
greater distances than their SL counterparts (t = 2.55, P = .013;
ES = 0.93). There was a small difference in the relative distances
covered between groups, with lower values in NRL than in SL
matches (F1,186 = 12.76, P < .001; ES = –0.38). In addition, there
were trivial to moderate differences in relative distance covered
between positional groups in NRL and SL matches (F2,186 = 5.29,
P = .006; ES = –1.18 to 0.10), with post hoc analysis indicating a
higher relative distance covered by forwards in SL matches than
in the NRL (t = 4.78, P < .001; ES = –1.18). Relative distance cov-
ered in low-speed activity (F1,186 = 16.16, P < .001; ES = –0.43)
and moderate-speed running (F1,186 = 16.22, P < .001; ES = –0.48)
was highest in the SL matches, while relative high-speed running
distance was greater during NRL matches (F1,186 = 15.80, P <
.001; ES = 0.54). Low-speed activity showed trivial to moderate
differences between positions in the NRL and SL (F2,186 = 5.68,
P = .004; ES = –1.06 to 0.15), although moderate-speed running
was not signicantly different (F2,186 = 1.69, P = .187; ES = –0.95
to –0.28). Trivial to moderate positional differences in high-speed
running were observed between NRL and SL matches (F2,182 =
5.87, P = .003; ES = –0.07–1.2). Post hoc analysis revealed that
forwards performed more low-speed activity in the SL (t = –4.74,
P < .001; ES = –1.06), while adjustables (t = 5.01, P < .001; ES =
1.16) and outside backs (t = 2.69, P = .010; ES = 0.69) performed
more high-speed running in NRL matches (Table 1).
There was no main effect, indicating that the average playing
time was not different between the rst (NRL 37.0 ± 8.2 min, SL
36.4 ± 12.2 min) and second halves (NRL 37.6 ± 10.5 min, SL 36.4
± 10.9 min) of matches (F1,186 = 1.37, P = .243; ES = 0.04–0.14),
nor were these values different between groups (F1,186 = 0.141, P =
.708; ES = -0.06). A main effect indicated relative distance reduced
from the rst to the second half (F1,186 = 8.08, P = .005), but reduc-
tions were similar between NRL (92.6 ± 9.4 m/min cf 87.4 ± 8.8
m/min, respectively; ES = 0.58) and SL (102.6 ± 31.4 m/min cf
96.7 ± 27.2 m/min, respectively; ES = 0.18) matches (F1,182 = 0.03,
P = .863). A main effect revealed reductions in low-speed activity
between halves (F1,186 = 4.77, P = .030), although changes for NRL
(72.2 ± 5.8 cf 68.3 ± 5.4 m/min; ES = 0.69) and SL (80.2 ± 26.5 cf
77.0 ± 22.6 m/min; ES = 0.11) matches were not different (F1,186
= 0.051, P = .822). Moderate-speed running was reduced from the
rst to the second half (F1,186 = 4.87, P = .028) but was not differ-
ent between NRL (12.8 ± 3.7 cf. 12.2 ± 3.7 m/min; ES = 0.16) and
SL (15.2 ± 5.2 cf. 14.3 ± 5.0 m/min; ES = 0.16) matches (F1,186 =
0.18, P = .674). A main effect revealed reductions in high-speed
running from the rst to the second half (F1,186 = 24.26, P < .001),
with signicant changes in SL (7.3 ± 3.1 cf 5.4 ± 2.4 m/min; ES =
0.68) but not NRL (7.5 ± 3.3 cf 6.8 ± 2.5 m/min; ES = 0.25) matches
(F1,186 = 4.46, P = .036; Figure 1).
927
Table 1 Match Characteristics for National Rugby League (NRL) and Super League (SL) Forwards, Adjustables, Outside Backs, and All Players
National Rugby League Super League
Forwards
(n = 29)
Adjustables
(n = 29)
Outside backs
(n = 30)
All
(n = 88)
Forwards
(n = 39)
Adjustables
(n = 23)
Outside backs
(n = 42)
All
(n = 104)
Time (min) 56.7 ± 16.4 82.8 ± 8.9† 85.8 ± 3.9 75.2 ± 17.0 57.9 ± 15.8 69.7 ± 23.4 83.9 ± 12.9 70.5 ± 21.0
Total distance (m) 4948 ± 1370† 7973 ± 1160† 7381 ± 518 6775 ± 1686 5733 ± 1158 6766 ± 1495 7133 ± 1204 6526 ± 1396
Relative distance (m/min) 88.0 ± 7.8† 96.2 ± 7.5 86.5 ± 6.3 90.2 ± 8.3* 101.7 ± 14.0 104.4 ± 27.2 85.6 ± 10.7 95.8 ± 18.6
Low-speed activity (m/min) 70.6 ± 5.1† 73.2 ± 4.5 67.2 ± 3.2 70.3 ± 4.9* 81.1 ± 12.4 82.8 ± 23.4 66.3 ± 7.3 75.5 ± 15.9
Moderate-speed running (m/min) 11.8 ± 3.6 14.6 ± 3.2 11.0 ± 1.9 12.5 ± 3.3* 15.1 ± 3.4 15.7 ± 4.5 12.7 ± 3.4 14.2 ± 3.8
High-speed running (m/min) 5.5 ± 2.0 8.2 ± 2.2† 7.8 ± 2.1† 7.2 ± 2.4* 5.6 ± 1.9 5.9 ± 1.7 6.6 ± 1.5 6.1 ± 1.7
Note: Low-speed activity = 0–3.5 m/s, moderate-speed running = 3.6–5.0 m/s, and high-speed running = >5.0 m/s.
*Signicant difference between NRL and SL (P < .05). †Signicant difference between NRL and SL matches for same positional group (P < .05).
928 Twist et al
higher relative distance between groups (F1,186 = 5.29, P = .023;
ES = –0.38). Low-speed activity remained unchanged between the
early- (NRL 70.7 ± 4.4 m/min, SL 72.4 ± 14.1 m/min), middle-
(NRL 70.5 ± 5.4 m/min, SL 75.2 ± 10.8 m/min), and late-season
phases (NRL 69.6 ± 5.1 m/min, SL 77.4 ± 19.4 m/min; F2,186 =
.415, P = .661; ES = –0.29 to 0.23). However, a main effect for
group revealed a higher low-speed activity in SL players (F1,184 =
6.94, P = .009; ES = –0. 43). Moderate-speed running remained
unchanged between the early- (NRL 13.1 ± 3.4 m/min, SL 13.5
± 4.1 m/min), middle- (NRL 13.0 ± 3.7 m/min, SL 14.4 ± 3.1 m/
min), and late-season phases (NRL 11.3 ± 2.6 m/min, SL 14.6 ±
4.1 m/min; F2,186 = .746, P = .475; ES = –0.26 to 062). Again, a
main effect for group revealed higher moderate-speed running
in SL players (F1,186 = 10.14, P = .002; ES = –0.49). High-speed
running remained consistent across the early- (NRL 7.2 ± 2.3 m/
min, SL 6.0 ± 1.6 m/min), middle- (NRL 7.6 ± 2.5 m/min, SL 5.9
± 1.6 m/min), and late-season phases (NRL 6.7 ± 2.4 m/min, SL
6.2 ± 1.9 m/min; F1,186 = 0.479, P = .620; ES = –0.21 to 0.42) and
was higher in NRL players than in SL players (F1,182 = 13.34, P <
.001; ES = 0.53).
Discussion
This is the rst study to directly compare the match demands of elite
rugby league teams from the Australian and European competitions.
Our study compared 192 match performances from the same season
in an attempt to ascertain if the demands differed between the NRL
and SL competitions. The total and relative distance covered during
each of the respective competitions were similar to those reported
previously in NRL1,3,12 and SL2 matches. However, we observed that
values for forwards and adjustables in this study were slightly higher
than values reported for the same positional groups by Waldron et
al.2 These small differences (~6 m/min) are potentially explained
by the larger number of performances measured in the current study
and match-to-match variability in activity proles of team sport.18,19
Collectively, these ndings suggest that our data are representative
of the movement demands imposed on players during Australian
NRL and European SL competitions.
This study revealed that adjustables in the NRL matches had
more game time and covered greater absolute distances per match
than the same positional group in the SL matches. This was in con-
trast to forwards and outside backs, whose game time in the NRL and
SL matches was similar. While small differences in total absolute
and relative match intensity were apparent between groups, it would
appear that players in the NRL and SL matches achieve this in a
different manner. Although SL players spend a greater proportion
of match play in low-speed activity and moderate-speed running,
our observations conrm a superior relative high-speed running in
the NRL than the SL matches. Moreover, specic positional groups
were responsible for the discrepancies between competitions, with
NRL adjustables and outside backs performing more high-speed
running than their SL counterparts and SL forwards performing
more low-speed activity than NRL forwards. The amount of high-
speed running has been used to differentiate between standards of
competition in team sports,6–8 with top-class teams performing more
high-speed running than moderate-standard teams. Accordingly,
ndings in this study provide evidence to support the anecdotal
claims that the activity proles of the NRL differ from those of
the SL. Our ndings also demonstrate that the greater volume
of high-speed running in the NRL can be attributed to positional
groups that predominantly run in open spaces and support offensive
plays.1,4
Figure 1 — Changes in (A) relative distance, (B) low-speed activity, (C)
moderate-speed running, and (D) high-speed running between the rst and
second halves of National Rugby League (NRL; black) and Super League
(SL; light gray) matches. *Signicant difference between rst and second
halves. #Signicant difference between NRL and SL.
Relative distance covered was not different across the early-
(NRL 91.4 ± 8.0 m/min, SL 91.9 ± 18.0 m/min), mid- (NRL 91.5
± 9.0 m/min, SL 95.6 ± 13.3 m/min), and late-season phases (NRL
87.6 ± 7.6 m/min, SL 98.2 ± 21.9 m/min; F2,186 = 0.246, P = .782;
ES = –0.01 to 0.48). However, a main effect for group revealed a
Australian and European Rugby League Match Demands 929
While the inuence of match score, possession, and tactical
decisions cannot be ignored, reductions in high-speed running
toward the end of a rugby league match are known to be indicative of
fatigue.13,20,21 While both groups of players performed similar relative
amounts of high-speed running in the rst half, second-half high-
speed running was ~9% and ~27% lower for NRL and SL matches,
respectively. The small reduction in second-half high-speed running
in NRL players accounts for the greater total volume of higher-
speed running observed in the Australian matches. These ndings
also suggest that, across the course of match play, NRL matches
were played at consistently higher intensities than SL matches.
Differences in physical capacity are known to inuence high-speed
running performance during team sports,22,23 which might explain
the discrepancies in physical demands observed between NRL and
SL matches. In particular, greater prolonged high-speed-running
capacity of NRL adjustables and outside backs would have enabled
more high-speed running by these players during a game.22 Tactical
strategies implemented by Australian coaches might also enable the
maintenance of high-speed running during NRL matches. For exam-
ple, the introduction of second-half interchange players in soccer
increases the overall distance covered in high-speed running.6 While
the total match time of the most typically interchanged players (ie,
forwards) was not different between NRL and SL, a more effective
use of interchanges to replace fatiguing players could have enabled
the smaller reduction in second-half high-speed running observed
in NRL matches. Such observations might also be inuenced by the
pacing strategies adopted by players during matches. Indeed, our
ndings reafrm those of Waldron et al,12 who reported that inter-
change players in the European SL typically adopt higher intensities
in their rst exercise bout, followed by a lower, maintainable intensity
in the second. Players in the NRL might therefore be encouraged to
adopt an even pacing strategy that enables only small reductions in
high-speed running in the second half of a match.
The relative distance, low-speed activity, and moderate- and
high-speed running were not different across the early-, middle-, and
late-season phases for both NRL and SL matches. These data differ
from those reported in soccer, where total distance and high-speed
running increase toward the end of the season.6,24 These data also
suggest that SL matches involve players covering greater relative
distances but that this is achieved through more low-speed activity.
Our ndings therefore support anecdotal claims that matches in the
SL competition are slower than those of the NRL.
Practical Applications
These ndings enable coaches to better understand the activity
proles of elite rugby league teams that allow players to perform
at the highest standard. While total relative distance provides an
indicator of overall match demand, practitioners should consider
the way players achieve that distance. Coaches should also develop
players’ capacity to maintain high-speed running in the second
halves of matches and resist fatigue that might have a negative
outcome in terms of running performance. The ability to maintain
more high-speed running in a match appears to be an important
characteristic of teams playing in a better standard of competition.
Coaches should also consider the roles of individual players and
how they contribute to the maintenance of overall match intensity.
Conclusions
In the rst study to directly compare the movement demands of
an NRL and SL team during the same season, we have provided
evidence to substantiate the anecdotal claims that the NRL provides
a higher standard of rugby league competition than the SL. This is
based on the observations that in NRL players, high-speed running
is better preserved between the rst and second halves of matches
and that SL matches comprise more low-speed activity throughout
the season. NRL adjustables and outside backs performed more
high-speed running than their SL counterparts. This suggests that
in the NRL, greater emphasis is placed on the involvement of these
positions and their roles during matches.
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... However, there is currently no consensus in the literature as to exactly how these logical positional groups are formed, since they are usually anecdotally chosen. Some studies include no positional groupings and treat all players as the same sample (Kempton et al., 2017;Murray et al., 2014;Twist et al., 2014;Varley et al., 2014), whereas others classify players using the individual playing positions themselves (Austin & Kelly, 2014). Studies that do use positional groupings commonly include a forwards and backs split (e.g., Oxendale et al., 2016;Rennie et al., 2020), or forwards, backs and adjustables (King et al., 2009). ...
... Firstly, wings and centres are consistently clustered across displacement, technical, and combined datasets, which is expected given their similarities in attacking and defensive roles (Sirotic et al., 2011). Fullbacks are often also grouped with centres and wings to form the "outside backs" positional group (e.g., Cummins & Orr, 2015;Twist et al., 2014;Waldron et al., 2011). This is reflected in the technical only dataset (Tech C3 ), but not in the displacement dataset where fullbacks form their own cluster (Disp C3 ) or the combined dataset where they are more similar to halves (Comb C2 ). ...
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This study aimed to determine the similarity between and within positions in professional rugby league in terms of technical performance and match displacement. Here, the analyses were repeated on 3 different datasets which consisted of technical features only, displacement features only, and a combined dataset including both. Each dataset contained 7617 observations from the 2018 and 2019 Super League seasons, including 366 players from 11 teams. For each dataset, feature selection was initially used to rank features regarding their importance for predicting a player's position for each match. Subsets of 12, 11, and 27 features were retained for technical, displacement, and combined datasets for subsequent analyses. Hierarchical cluster analyses were then carried out on the positional means to find logical groupings. For the technical dataset, 3 clusters were found: (1) props, loose forwards, second-row, hooker; (2) halves; (3) wings, centres, fullback. For displacement, 4 clusters were found: (1) second-rows, halves; (2) wings, centres; (3) fullback; (4) props, loose forward, hooker. For the combined dataset, 3 clusters were found: (1) halves, fullback; (2) wings and centres; (3) props, loose forward, hooker, second-rows. These positional clusters can be used to standardise positional groups in research investigating either technical, displacement, or both constructs within rugby league.
... Rugby league requires players to perform frequent high-intensity actions (e.g., sprinting, accelerating, decelerating, and changing direction) that are interspersed with periods of low-a1111111111 a1111111111 a1111111111 a1111111111 a1111111111 intensity activity (e.g., walking, jogging or a 'ball-out-of-play' period) [1][2][3]. Rugby league also requires players to engage in high-impact collisions, wrestles and tackles, that when combined with high-intensity running, result in frequent repeated high-intensity efforts (RHIE) [4]. These high-intensity efforts have been associated with scoring and conceding a try [4], thus strategies that optimise athletes' ability to execute each component of a RHIE are likely to be important for successful performance and potentially moderate injury risk [5]. ...
... In part, these findings may be explained by reductions in tackle technique as the session progresses, with clear evidence in other rugby codes demonstrating moderate to large differences in tackling technique between those who sustain an injury compared to those who do not [7]. Such observations may also be explained by fatigue that results in impaired tackle technique [8] and poor positioning before a tackle due to the observed decrements in relative and high-speed distance covered during a second half of a match [2]. As such, there is a need to consider potential strategies to maintain tackle technique as well as relative distance and high-speed distance during rugby league activity. ...
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The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of a 12% carbohydrate (CHO) beverage on tackling technique and running performance during rugby league activity. Using a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomised, crossover design, 15 academy rugby league players ingested a 250 ml bolus of a 12% CHO solution (30 g maltodextrin and 30 g sucrose in 500 ml) 15 minutes before two bouts of rugby activity. The rugby league match simulation for interchange players was used to standardise the movement patterns of activity and provide reliable outcome measures, whilst also reflecting the duration of a typical field-based conditioning session. Measures of tackling technique, external responses (e.g., fatigue index from sprint data) and rating of perceived exertion (RPE) were recorded throughout. Gut discomfort was measured before each bout. The interaction effect was largely compatible with the hypothesis for relative distance ( P <0.001, η ² = 0.217) and fairly compatible for tackling technique ( P = 0.068, η ² = 0.0640). The time effect for tackling technique, relative and high-intensity distance, sprint, and sprint to contact velocity, time at high metabolic power, PlayerLoad™, and RPE (all P <0.05; η ² = 0.131–0.701) was compatible with the hypothesis. Data for tackling technique, relative and high-intensity distance, sprint, and sprint to contact velocity, sprint, and sprint to contact fatigue index (all P <0.05; η ² = 0.189–0.612) was compatible with a supplement effect overall despite few differences in the pattern of change (interaction). Minimal gut discomfort was reported for the CHO (bout 1 = 27 ± 17; bout 2 = 23 ± 17 AU) and placebo (bout 1 = 23 ± 18 AU; bout 2 = 24 ± 13) trials. This study shows that a 12% CHO beverage before two bouts of standardised rugby activity is a practical and effective strategy for retaining tackling technique, increasing external responses, and reducing RPE without compromising gut comfort.
... En general, la evidencia es escasa en comparar variables relativas al peso entre ambas posiciones de juego del RU. La mayoría de los estudios realizan comparaciones entre los distintos niveles de competencia de juego, focalizando los análisis en países como Australia, Nueva Zelanda y Europa y en nivel profesional 7,15,21,22 . En relación con esto, los estudios que investigan las variables de rendimiento deportivo según posiciones en el Rugby para la población latinoamericana es escaza, centrándose en el Rugby Sevens como en población femenina 23,24 . ...
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... The risk associated with HSR is elevated in matches compared to training (67,68). The congestion of the playing schedule (particularly in soccer) (86,87), and increase in HSR demands during match play (56,75,88) are often used as justification for the high rates of HSI in these sports. ...
... Rugby players typically complete repeated rapid change of direction movements, accelerations and decelerations, sprinting, and tackling during match-play (Waldron et al., 2011;Cummins et al., 2013;Oxendale et al., 2016;Till et al., 2020). Further analysis has revealed that the demands of professional match-play vary by competition (Twist et al., 2014), and differ depending on contextual factors such as technical and tactical factors, individual characteristics, and athlete positions (Oxendale et al., 2016;Dalton-Barron et al., 2020;Till et al., 2020). The actions which contribute to external load differ between positional groups. ...
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Locomotor and collision actions that rugby players complete during match-play often lead to substantial fatigue, and in turn, delays in recovery. The methods used to quantify post-match fatigue and recovery can be categorised as subjective and objective, with match-related collision characteristics thought to have a primary role in modulating these recovery measures. The aim of this review was to (1) evaluate how post-match recovery has been quantified in the rugby football codes (i.e., rugby league, rugby union, and rugby sevens), (2) to explore the time-course of commonly used measures of fatigue post-match, and (3) to investigate the relationships between game-related collisions and fatigue metrics. The available evidence suggests that upper-, and lower-body neuromuscular performance are negatively affected, and biomarkers of muscular damage and inflammation increase in the hours and days following match-play, with the largest differences being at 12–36 h post-match. The magnitude of such responses varies within and between neuromuscular performance (Δ ≤ 36%, n = 13 studies) and tissue biomarker (Δ ≤ 585%, n = 18 studies) measures, but nevertheless appears strongly related to collision frequency and intensity. Likewise, the increase in perceived soreness in the hours and days post-match strongly correlate to collision characteristics across the rugby football codes. Within these findings, there are specific differences in positional groups and recovery trajectories between the codes which relate to athlete characteristics, and/or locomotor and collision characteristics. Finally, based on these findings, we offer a conceptual model of fatigue which details the multidimensional latent structure of the load to fatigue relationship contextualised to rugby. Research to date has been limited to univariate associations to explore relationships between collision characteristics and recovery, and multivariate methods are necessary and recommended to account for the latent structures of match-play external load and post-match fatigue constructs. Practitioners should be aware of the typical time windows of fatigue recovery and utilise both subjective and objective metrics to holistically quantify post-match recovery in rugby.
... Rugby League (RL) is a team sport characterized by repeated bouts of high-intensity locomotion (e.g., accelerations, highspeed running, and sprinting) interspersed with recovery periods (e.g., standing still, walking, and low-speed jogging) and frequent collisions and tackles involving opposition players (38,45). Accordingly, players develop specific physical and physiological characteristics as a consequence of playing RL and participating in targeted strength and conditioning training programs. ...
Article
Minahan, C, Newans, T, Quinn, K, Parsonage, J, Buxton, S, and Bellinger, P. Strong, Fast, Fit, Lean, and Safe: A positional comparison of physical and physiological qualities within the 2020 Australian Women's Rugby League team. J Strength Cond Res XX(X): 000-000, 2021-The purpose of the present study was to report the physical and physiological characteristics of elite women Rugby League (RL) players. Thirty-nine women (25.6 ± 4.3 years, 171.3 ± 7.7 cm, 83.5 ± 13.9 kg) from the 2020 Australian women's RL squad were recruited for this study. Players were categorized as adjustables (n = 7), backs (n = 15), or forwards (n = 17) for analysis. Each player was assessed for anthropometry, body composition (dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry), speed (5, 10 and 20 m sprint times), lower-body power (countermovement jump), upper-body power (medicine ball throw and explosive push up force), estimated one repetition maximum (e1RM) bench press, squat and bench pull, isometric mid-thigh pull strength, eccentric knee flexor strength, isometric hip abduction and adduction, and intermittent endurance performance (30-15 intermittent fitness test; 30-15 IFT). Linear mixed models were performed to compare positional groups. Forwards were significantly heavier and had greater fat mass, fat-free mass, and body fat percentage compared with backs and adjustables (P < 0.01). Backs were faster over 20 m compared with forwards (P = 0.025), whereas forwards had a lower 30-15 IFT peak velocity and estimated V[Combining Dot Above]O2peak compared with backs and adjustables. Nonetheless, when including body mass in the model, there were no differences between groups in 30-15 IFT peak velocity. There were no significant differences in other variables. These results provide contemporary benchmark physical, physiological, and anthropometric data for elite women RL players, which can inform recruitment, selection, training, and testing.
Thesis
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The primary aim of this thesis was to evaluate the dietary intake, energy expenditure and energy balance of young professional male rugby league players across the season.
Preprint
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High-speed running (HSR) has previously been documented as a popular metric among rugby league researchers. Researchers place importance on HSR due to its inclusion in assessing the demands of training and match-play to help prescribe accurate training loads and recovery methods. However, there is currently no information available as to 1 how important rugby league practitioners perceive HSR to be and what methods are currently used by practitioners to quantify HSR. Furthermore, practitioners' perceptions of specific benefits, barriers and motivations when selecting HSR methods is also currently limited. Therefore, the aim of this study was to provide a current insight into the practice and perceptions of rugby league practitioners when quantifying HSR. This study surveyed practitioners working in the European Super League (n = 12) and the Australasian National Rugby League (n = 11). Ranking analysis established HSR to be the most important metric for both training practice and match-play. Absolute HSR thresholds were applied by 52% of respondents (n = 12) with the most common being 5.5m•s-1 (n = 9). Individualised HSR thresholds were applied by 48% of respondents (n = 11) with the most common approach implementing peak sprint speed methods (n = 9). Absolute HSR thresholds are perceived to permit better group data comparison whereas individualized methods are perceived to permit better interpretation of HSR data. Ultimately, practitioners are motivated to implement their chosen methods with the possibility of more accurately prescribed HSR thresholds, although impracticality of specific testing procedures may act as a barrier.
Chapter
Although rugby is a contact collision sport, in all its codes the sport involves considerable running activity. Although backs may be perceived to do more high-speed running and sprinting, however forwards often undertake considerable sprinting more frequently from a standing start and with greater weight leading to higher momentum. High-intensity and sprint training must be specific for players of all positions.
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High-speed running (HSR) has been documented within rugby league to differentiate playing standard, position and often precedes pivotal match events. Practitioners and researchers place importance on HSR due to its inclusion in assessing the demands of training and match-play to help prescribe accurate training loads and recovery methods. High-speed running can be quantified in absolute terms whereby the same threshold speed is applied to all players (e.g., 5.0m∙s-1). Within rugby league, differences in tactical demand, anthropometric and physical fitness characteristics exist between positions and players, suggesting that absolute HSR thresholds may not be appropriate due to under and over estimations of HSR data. Alternatively, practitioners may individualize the threshold speed to individual players physical qualities such as peak sprint speed, maximal aerobic speed (MAS) or the speed at which the ventilatory thresholds occur. Individualizing HSR warrants the practitioner to select a valid and practical test to quantify the HSR threshold speed. It is suggested that using peak sprint speed to quantify HSR can produce erroneous interpretation of HSR data whilst the practicality of specific physiological derived thresholds can be questioned. Implementing MAS to quantify HSR using a set time/distance trial may be the most appropriate approach for rugby league practitioners.
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Previous investigators have reported significant relationships between tests of physical qualities and physical match performance in high-intensity intermittent team sport (e.g. soccer) players. While rugby league requires competitors to perform high-intensity running, unlike most other high-intensity intermittent team sports, the physical demands are significantly increased through the large amounts of tackling, wrestling, and grappling that players are required to perform during match-play. This study investigated the relationship between tests of physical qualities and match performance in professional rugby league players, and determined whether running capacities were associated with the collision and repeated high intensity effort demands of match-play. Thirty-eight elite rugby league players (mean ± SD age, 23.1 ± 2.7 yr) performed tests of repeated sprint ability (6 x 20 m sprints on a 20 s cycle), prolonged high-intensity intermittent running ability (8 x 12 s shuttle sprints on a 48 s cycle), and estimated maximal aerobic power (multi-stage fitness test). Global positioning system data were collected during 16 professional rugby league matches. Players with better prolonged high-intensity intermittent running ability covered greater total distance and greater distance in high-speed running during match-play. However, inconsistent relationships were found between tests of running abilities and other match performance variables, with prolonged high-intensity running ability (negative), maximal aerobic power (positive), and repeated-sprint ability (no relationship) differentially associated with the total number of collisions and repeated high-intensity effort bouts performed in competition. These findings demonstrate the importance of prolonged high-intensity running ability to the match running performance of elite rugby league players, but also highlight the need for game-specific conditioning to prepare players for the high-intensity collision, and repeated-effort demands of the game.
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There has been no previous investigation of the concurrent validity and reliability of the current 5 Hz global positioning system (GPS) to assess sprinting speed or the reliability of integrated GPS-accelerometer technology. In the present study, we wished to determine: (1) the concurrent validity and reliability of a GPS and timing gates to measure sprinting speed or distance, and (2) the reliability of proper accelerations recorded via GPS-accelerometer integration. Nineteen elite youth rugby league players performed two over-ground sprints and were simultaneously assessed using GPS and timing gates. The GPS measurements systematically underestimated both distance and timing gate speed. The GPS measurements were reliable for all variables of distance and speed (coefficient of variation [CV] = 1.62% to 2.3%), particularly peak speed (95% limits of agreement [LOA] = 0.00 ± 0.8 km · h(-1); CV = 0.78%). Timing gates were more reliable (CV = 1% to 1.54%) than equivalent GPS measurements. Accelerometer measurements were least reliable (CV = 4.69% to 5.16%), particularly for the frequency of proper accelerations (95% LOA = 1.00 ± 5.43; CV = 14.12%). Timing gates and GPS were found to reliably assess speed and distance, although the validity of the GPS remains questionable. The error found in accelerometer measurements indicates the limits of this device for detecting changes in performance.
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To investigate the physical demands of professional rugby league match-play using microtechnology, and to compare these demands with typical training activities used to prepare players for competition. Prospective cohort study. Thirty elite rugby league players participated in this study. Seven hundred and eighty-six. training data sets and 104 data sets from National Rugby League matches were collected over one playing season. Movement was recorded using a commercially available microtechnology unit (minimaxX, Catapult Innovations), which provided information on speeds, distances, accelerations, physical collisions and repeated high-intensity efforts. Mean distances covered during match-play by the hit-up forwards, wide-running forwards, adjustables, and outside backs were 3,569 m, 5,561 m, 6,411 m, and 6,819 m, respectively. Hit-up forwards and wide-running forwards were engaged in a greater number of moderate and heavy collisions than the adjustables and outside backs, and more repeated high-intensity effort bouts per minute of play (1 bout every 4.8-6.3 min). The physical demands of traditional conditioning, repeated high-intensity effort exercise, and skill training activities were all lower than the physical demands of competition. These results demonstrate that absolute distances covered during professional rugby league matches are greater for outside backs, while the collision and repeated high-intensity effort demands are higher for hit-up forwards and wide-running forwards. The specific physical demands of competitive play, especially those demands associated with collisions and repeated high-intensity efforts, were not well matched by those observed in traditional conditioning, repeated high-intensity effort exercise, and skills training activities. Further research is required to investigate whether modifications need to be made to these training activities to better prepare players for the demands of National Rugby League competition.
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Objectives: To assess between match variability of physical performance measures over both the total and sub sections of the match in professional rugby league competition. Design: Longitudinal observational study. Methods: Global positioning system (GPS) data were collected from 24 players from the same team competing in the National Rugby League (NRL) competition over 23 matches during 2011 season. The GPS data were categorised into total distance, high-speed running (>15kmh(-1)) and very high-speed running (>21kmh(-1)) distance for discrete reference periods (10min, 20min, 40min and 80min). The data was then log transformed to provide the coefficient of variation (CV) and the between subject standard deviation (both expressed as percentages). Results: The data show that the between match variability is greater for high-speed (CV 14.6%) and very-high speed (CV 37.0%) running compared to total distance (CV 3.6%). Within each speed category, the variability of performance tended to increase as the duration of the reference period decreased. Conclusions: The results show that while global measures of physical performance such as total distance are relatively stable, higher-speed activities exhibit a large degree of between match variability. In addition, when segmenting the match into short periods of time for analysis, all physical performance measures increased in variability. These findings have implications for determining sample size, identifying reliable performance measures and selecting appropriate time periods for future applied studies that involve observational match analysis.
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Objectives: To investigate the physical demands on junior rugby league players competing at three different standards of tournament match-play. Design: Cross-sectional study. Methods: Sixty junior rugby league players (mean ± SD age, 16.7 ± 0.7 years) participated in this study. Players were either competing in Division 1, Division 2, or Division 3 teams of the Confraternity carnival. Global positioning system (GPS) analysis was completed during 17 matches (totalling 139 appearances). Results: Division 1 and 2 players covered significantly (p=0.001) greater distance per minute of match play than Division 3 players (83.0 ± 12.3m/min and 81.5 ± 6.9 m/min vs. 73.3 ± 9.8m/min). The greater total distance at the higher competitive standard was achieved through greater (p=0.001) distances at low speeds, with Division 1 players also covering more (p=0.038) high speed running than Division 3 players. Expressed relative to playing time, the number of total collisions was lower (p=0.001) in Division 3 players. Division 2 players engaged in more (p=0.034) repeated high-intensity effort bouts than Division 3 players. Significant decrements in total (p=0.005) and low speed distances (p=0.006) were found, with Division 3 players showing the largest reductions in performance. Conclusions: These findings demonstrate that both the average intensity and the repeated high-intensity effort demands of junior rugby league tournament match-play are greater at higher playing standards. Sport scientists and conditioning staff can use these data to plan appropriate training sessions to allow players to tolerate match-play demands, and recover from the demands of competition.
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The purpose of this study was to quantify the movement demands of all nine individual playing positions in professional rugby league. The movement demands of 135 professional rugby league players were recorded during 28 National Rugby League games in 2011, using a non-differential 5 Hz global positioning system. The mean total distances covered in a game for fullback, wing, centre, five-eight and halfback, hooker, lock, back row and prop players were 7760, 7457, 7301, 8402, 8500, 6988, 5481, 6936, and 4597 m, respectively. The average frequency of high-intensity runs per match was 42, 35, 34, 86, 120, 74, 52, 26 and 18 for fullback, wing, centre, five-eight and halfback, hooker, lock, back row and prop players, respectively. The average distance travelled greater than 18 km.h for fullback were 17 ± 2 m, wing 18 ± 2 m, centre 18 ± 3 m, five-eight 16 ± 3 m and halfback 17 ± 4 m. The average distance and range travelled greater than 18 km.h for hooker were 14 ± 3 m, lock 16 ± 2 m, back row 18 ± 3 m, prop 16 ± 2 m. The use of GPS has demonstrated plausibility to eliminate the use of grouping of positions in rugby league and for coaches to make specific training protocols for each position. Given the differences in movement demands of all nine positions in rugby league, some positions would lack specificity to their positional requirements if using collective grouping for planning of training regimes.
Article
The aim of the present study was to examine positional differences in physical performance measures of professional, semi-professional and junior elite Rugby League match-play using portable Global Positioning Systems (GPS). Twelve professional, twelve semi-professional and eighteen junior elite male Rugby League players were monitored during five regular season competition matches using portable GPS software. The mean total distance travelled during professional (8371 ± 897 m) and semi-professional (7277 ± 734 m) match-play was significantly (p< 0.05) greater than elite junior (4646 ± 978 m) match-play. Position specific total distance travelled and distance travelled per minute of playing time were significantly (p< 0.05) less for junior elite backs (5768 ± 765 m; 74 ± 11 m·min) and forwards (4774 ± 564 m; 82 ± 5 m·min) in comparison to professional (backs 8158 ± 673 m; 101 ± 8 m·min, forwards 8442 ± 812 m; 98 ± 12 m·min) and semi-professional (backs 7505 ± 765 m; 94 ± 8 m·min, forwards 6701 ± 678 m; 89 ± 8 m·min) match-play. Maximum running speed, maximum sprints and total sprint distance travelled by professional players were all significantly (p< 0.05) greater than junior elite player but not semi-professional players during match-play. Professional backs and forwards performed significantly (p< 0.05) more maximum sprints and travelled greater total distance during match-play in comparison to semi-professional and junior elite players. The present findings demonstrate minimal differences in the physical performance measures of professional and semi-professional Rugby League match-play. The position specific performance characteristics of junior elite match-play indicate current junior elite player development pathways may not provide adequate preparation for players transitioning into professional competition.
Article
Purpose: This study aimed to quantify changes in heart rate (HR) and movement speeds in interchanged and whole-match players during 35 elite rugby league performances. Methods: Performances were separated into whole match, interchange bout 1, and interchange bout 2 and further subdivided into match quartiles. Mean percentages of peak HR (%HR(peak)) and total and high-intensity running (> 14 km/h) meters per minute (m/min) were recorded. Results: For whole-match players, a decline in high-intensity m/min and %HR(peak) was observed between successive quartiles (P < .05). High-intensity m/min during interchange 1 also progressively declined, although initial m/min was higher than whole match (24.2 ± 7.9 m/min vs 18.3 ± 4.7 m/min, P = .018), and %HR(peak) did not change over match quartiles (P > .05). During interchange 2, there was a decline in high-intensity m/min from quartile 1 to quartile 3 (18 ± 4.1 vs 13.4 ± 5 m/min, P = .048) before increasing in quartile 4. Quartiles 1 and 2 also showed an increase in %HR(peak) (85.2 ± 6.5 vs 87.3 ± 4.2%, P = .022). Conclusions: Replacement players adopted a high initial intensity in their first match quartile before a severe decline thereafter. However, in a second bout, lower exercise intensity at the outset enabled a higher physiological exertion for later periods. These findings inform interchange strategy and conditioning for coaches while also providing preliminary evidence of pacing in team sport.
Article
Understanding of the physical demands and the effects of fatigue and substitute players in rugby sevens is limited. This study quantified the differences in movement patterns between domestic and international rugby sevens tournaments, the effects of fatigue within and between matches during tournaments, and movement patterns of second half substitute players. Movement patterns of 19 international-level male rugby sevens players were recorded using a Global Positioning System (GPS) device during 11 international and 16 domestic matches (n = 174 files). Maximum velocity, total distance covered, distance covered in velocity zones and number of moderate and high accelerations and decelerations are reported per min of match time. Movement patterns were compared between international and domestic matches, first and second half, first and last tournament match and substitute and full-match players. Substantially greater distance was covered at high velocity (~27% at ≥ 6 ms(-1)) and 4-39% more accelerations and decelerations were performed in international than domestic matches. The relative distance covered by players at velocities >2 ms(-1) and the number of changes in velocity were reduced by 1-16% from first to second half. Small differences were observed in activity at <5 ms(-1) (-8-8%) and moderate accelerations (-18%) from first to last tournament match. All movement variables were higher (2-123%) for substitute players. International rugby sevens competition is more intense than domestic matches. Despite reductions in work-rate within individual matches, there is little indication of accumulated fatigue over a multi-day tournament.