Indexed on: 17 Mar '07Published on: 17 Mar '07Published in: Journal of sports sciences
The aim of this study was to quantify the movement patterns of various playing positions during professional rugby union match-play, such that the relative importance of aerobic and anaerobic energy pathways to performance could be estimated. Video analysis was conducted of individual players (n=29) from the Otago Highlanders during six "Super 12" representative fixtures. Each movement was coded as one of six speeds of locomotion (standing still, walking, jogging, cruising, sprinting, and utility), three states of non-running intensive exertion (rucking/mauling, tackling, and scrummaging), and three discrete activities (kicking, jumping, passing). The results indicated significant demands on all energy systems in all playing positions, yet implied a greater reliance on anaerobic glycolytic metabolism in forwards, due primarily to their regular involvement in non-running intense activities such as rucking, mauling, scrummaging, and tackling. Positional group comparisons indicated that while the greatest differences existed between forwards and backs, each positional group had its own unique demands. Front row forwards were mostly involved in activities involving gaining/retaining possession, back row forwards tended to play more of a pseudo back-line role, performing less rucking/mauling than front row forwards, yet being more involved in aspects of broken play such as sprinting and tackling. While outside backs tended to specialize in the running aspects of play, inside backs tended to show greater involvement in confrontational aspects of play such as rucking/mauling and tackling. These results suggest that rugby training and fitness testing should be tailored specifically to positional groups rather than simply differentiating between forwards and backs.