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Purpose: To examine the movement and physiological demands of rugby union officiating in elite competition. Methods: Movement demands of 9 elite officials across 12 Super Rugby matches were calculated, using global positioning system devices. Total distance (in m), relative distance (in m·min−1), and percentage time spent in various speed zones were calculated across a match. Heart-rate (HR) responses were also recorded throughout each match. Cohen d effect sizes were reported to examine the within-match variations. Results: The total distance covered was 8030 (506) m, with a relative distance of 83 (5) m·min−1 and with no differences observed between halves. Most game time was spent at lower movement speeds (76% [2%]; <2.0 m·s−1), with large effects for time spent >7.0 m·s−1 between halves (d = 2.85). Mean HR was 154 (10) beats·min−1 (83.8 [2.9]%HRmax), with no differences observed between the first and second halves. Most game time was spent between 81%HRmax and 90%HRmax (40.5% [7.5%]) with no observable differences between halves. Distances covered above 5.1 m·s−1 were highest during the first 10 min of a match, while distance at speeds 3.7 to 5 m·s−1 decreased during the final 10 min of play. Conclusions: These findings highlight the highly demanding and intermittent nature of rugby union officiating, with only some minor variations in physical and physiological demands across a match. These results have implications for the physical preparation of professional rugby union referees.

Blair is with the Inst of Sport and Adventure, Otago Polytechnic, Dunedin, New Zealand. Elsworthy is with the School of Health, Medical and Applied Sciences, Central Queensland University, Mackay, QLD, Australia. Rehrer and Button are with the School of Physical Education, Sport and Exercise Sciences, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand. Gill is with the Te Huataki Waiora Faculty of Health, Sport and Human Performance, University of Waikato, Tauranga, New Zealand.

Elsworthy (n.elsworthy@cqu.edu.au) is corresponding author.
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