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The physical characteristics of specific phases of play during rugby union match-play

Read, D and Jones, B and Williams, S and Phibbs, P and Darrall-Jones, J and Roe, G and Weakley, J and Rock, A and Till, K (2018) The physical characteristics of specific phases of play during rugby union match-play. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 13 (10). pp. 1331-1336. ISSN 1555-0265

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Abstract

Purpose: This study quantified the frequencies and timings of rugby union match-play phases (i.e., attacking, defending, ball in play (BIP) and ball out of play (BOP)) and then compared the physical characteristics of attacking, defending and BOP between forwards and backs. Methods: Data were analysed from 59 male rugby union academy players (259 observations). Each player wore a micro-technology device (Optimeye S5, Catapult) with video footage analysed for phase timings and frequencies. Dependent variables were analysed using a linear mixed-effects model and assessed with magnitude-based inferences and Cohen’s d effect sizes (ES). Results: Attack, defence, BIP and BOP times were 12.7 ± 3.1, 14.7 ± 2.5, 27.4 ± 2.9 and 47.4 ± 4.1 min, respectively. Mean attack (26 ± 17 s), defence (26 ± 18 s) and BIP (33 ± 24 s) phases were shorter than BOP phases (59 ± 33 s). The relative distance in attacking phases was similar (112.2 ± 48.4 vs. 114.6 ± 52.3 m·min-1, ES = 0.00 ±0.23) between forwards and backs, while greater in forwards (114.5 ± 52.7 vs. 109.0 ± 54.8 m·min-1, ES = 0.32 ±0.23) during defence and greater in backs during BOP (ES = -0.66 ±0.23). Conclusion: Total time in attack, defence and therefore BIP was less than BOP. Relative distance was greater in forwards during defence, while greater in backs during BOP and similar between positions during attack. Players should be exposed to training intensities from in play phases (i.e., attack and defence) rather than whole-match data and practice technical skills during these intensities.

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