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Applied Sport Science for Male Age-Grade Rugby Union in England

Till, K and Weakley, J and Read, D and Phibbs, P and Darrall-Jones, J and Roe, G and Chantler, S and Mellalieu, S and Hislop, M and Stokes, K and Rock, A and Jones, B (2020) Applied Sport Science for Male Age-Grade Rugby Union in England. Sports Medicine - Open, 6. ISSN 2199-1170

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Abstract

Rugby union (RU) is a skill-collision team sport played at junior and senior levels worldwide. Within England, age-grade rugby governs the participation and talent development of youth players. The RU player development pathway has recently been questioned, regarding player performance and wellbeing, which sport science research can address. The purpose of this review was to summarise and critically appraise the literature in relation to the applied sport science of male age-grade RU players in England focusing upon 1) match-play characteristics, 2) training exposures, 3) physical qualities, 4) fatigue and recovery, 5) nutrition, 6) psychological challenges and development, and 7) injury. Current research evidence suggests that age, playing level and position influence the match-play characteristics of age-grade RU. Training exposures of players are described as ‘organised chaos’ due to the multiple environments and stakeholders involved in coordinating training schedules. Fatigue is apparent up to 72 hours post match-play. Well developed physical qualities are important for player development and injury risk reduction. The nutritional requirements are high due to the energetic costs of collisions. Concerns around the psychological characteristics have also been identified (e.g., perfectionism). Injury risk is an important consideration with prevention strategies available. This review highlights the important multi-disciplinary aspects of sport science for developing age-grade RU players for continued participation and player development. The review describes where some current practices may not be optimal, provides a framework to assist practitioners to effectively prepare age-grade players for the holistic demands of youth RU and considers areas for future research.

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