This study used a virtual, simulated 3 vs. 3 rugby task to investigate whether gaps opening in particular running channels promote different actions by the ball carrier player and whether an effect of rugby expertise is verified. We manipulated emergent gaps in three different locations: Gap 1 in the participant’s own running channel, Gap 2 in the first receiver’s running channel, and Gap 3 in the second receiver’s running channel. Recreational, intermediate, professional, and nonrugby players performed the task. They could (i) run with the ball, (ii) make a short pass, or (iii) make a long pass. All actions were digitally recorded. Results revealed that the emergence of gaps in the defensive line with respect to the participant’s own position significantly influenced action selection. Namely, “run” was most often the action performed in Gap 1, “short pass” in Gap 2, and “long pass” in Gap 3 trials. Furthermore, a strong positive relationship between expertise and task achievement was found.
Vanda Correia and Duarte Araújo are with the Faculty of Human Kinetics, Technical University of Lisbon, Lisbon, Portugal. Alan Cummins and Cathy M. Craig are with the School of Psychology, Queen’s University of Belfast, Belfast, Ireland.