Physical Demands of Match Play in Successful and Less-Successful Elite Rugby League Teams

in International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance
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To quantify activity profiles in approximately 5-min periods to determine if the intensity of rugby league match play changes after the most intense period of play and to determine if the intensity of activity during predefined periods of match play differ between successful and less-successful teams playing at an elite standard.


Movement was recorded using a MinimaxX global positioning system (GPS) unit sampling at 10 Hz during 25 rugby league matches, equating to 200 GPS files. Data for each half of match play were separated into 8 equal periods. These periods represented the most intense phase of match play (peak period), the period after the most intense phase of match play (subsequent period), and the average demands of all other periods in a match (mean period). Two rugby league teams were split into a high-success and a low-success group based on their success rates throughout their season.


Compared with their less-successful counterparts, adjustables and hit-up forwards from the high-success team covered less total distance (P < .01) and less high-intensity-running distance (P < .01) and were involved in a greater number of collisions (P < .01) during the mean period of match play.


Although a greater number of collisions during match play is linked with a greater rate of success, greater amounts of high-intensity running and total distance are not related to competitive success in elite rugby league. These results suggest that technical and tactical differences, rather than activity profiles, may be the distinguishing factor between successful and less-successful rugby league teams.

Hulin and Gabbett are with the School of Exercise Science, Australian Catholic University, Brisbane, QLD, Australia. Kearney and Corvo are with Melbourne Storm Rugby League Club, Melbourne, Australia.

Address author correspondence to Tim Gabbett at