Assessing the Relationship Between External and Internal Match Loads in Elite Women’s Rugby Sevens

in International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance
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Purpose: To assess the relationship between external and internal load during official women’s rugby seven matches. Methods: Six backs (age = 24.2 [3.2] y; height = 161.5 [7.3] cm; body mass = 59.5 [5.0] kg; playing experience = 5.3 [1.5] y) and 8 forwards (age = 22.4 [2.7] y; height = 167.0 [4.8] cm; body mass = 70.6 [5.6] kg; playing experience = 5.0 [1.5] y) belonging to the women’s rugby seven Brazilian national team were monitored across 3 international tournaments during the 2019–20 season, with 2 players excluded from the analysis since they did not participate in any investigated match. Total distance (TD), distance during high-intensity running 18.1 to 20.0 km·h−1 and >20 km·h−1 (sprinting), number of accelerations >1.8 m·s−2 (ACC), and of decelerations <1.8 m·s−2 were used as match load volume measures, while their relative values (TD per minute, high-intensity running per minute, sprinting per minute, ACC per minute, and decelerations per minute) were used as external load match intensity measures. Internal load intensity and volume were assessed using the session rating of perceived exertion (sRPE) and its value multiplied by match duration (sRPE-ML), respectively. Spearman correlations and linear mixed models were used to assess the relationships between internal and external load measures. Results: A very large relationship (ρ = .830, P < .001) was found between sRPE-ML and TD, with linear mixed models showing that TD statistically affected sRPE-ML (P < .001). Linear mixed models analysis showed that ACC per minute was also affecting the sRPE-ML (P = .017), while sprinting (P = .007) and ACC per minute (P = .005) were the only 2 measures statistically affecting sRPE. However, weak relationships (trivial to large) were found for these and all other measures. Conclusions: These results highlight that TD is the main external load measure able to anticipate the internal load responses measured via sRPE-ML in elite women’s rugby sevens.

Conte is with the Latvian Academy of Sport Education, Riga, Latvia. Arruda, and Guerriero are with the Brazilian Rugby Confederation, São Paulo, Brazil. Clemente is with the Inst Politecnico de Viana do Castelo, Viana do Castelo, Portugal. Castillo is with the Faculty of Education, Universidad de Valladolid, Soria, Spain. Kamarauskas is with the Inst of Sport Science and Innovations, Lithuanian Sports University, Kaunas, Lithuania.

Conte (daniele.conte@lsu.lt) is corresponding author.
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