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Adrien Vachon, Nicolas Berryman, Iñigo Mujika, Jean-Baptiste Paquet, and Laurent Bosquet

Purpose: To assess the effects of a short-term taper on the ability to perform repeated high-intensity efforts, depending on players’ fatigue level following an intensive training block. Method: After a 3-day off-season camp, 13 players followed the same 3-week preseason training block followed by a 7-day exponential taper. Performance was assessed by a repeated high-intensity effort test before and after the taper. Total sprint time, percentage of decrement, and the number of sprints equal to or higher than 90% of the best sprint were retained for analysis. Players were a posteriori classified in normal training or acute fatigue groups based on their readiness to perform prior to the taper, assessed through the magnitude of difference in psychological (Profile of Mood State Questionnaire), cardiovascular (submaximal constant-duration cycling), and neuromuscular (countermovement jump) tests between the preintensive and postintensive training blocks. Results: Training load declined by 55% (9%) during the taper (P = .001, g = −2.54). The overall group showed a small improvement in total sprint time (−3.40% [3.90%], P = .04, g = −0.39) following the taper. Relative changes tended to be higher in the acute fatigue compared with the normal training group (−5.07% [4.52%] vs −1.45% [1.88%], respectively; P = .08; d = 1.01). No taper-induced improvement was observed in percentage of decrement or number of sprints equal to or higher than 90% of the best sprint. Conclusion: A 7-day taper consisting of 55% training load reduction improved repeated high-intensity effort performance in young elite rugby union players. Pretaper level of fatigue seems to be a key determinant in the taper supercompensation process, as acutely fatigued players at the end of the intensive training block tended to benefit more from the taper.

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Adrien Vachon, Nicolas Berryman, Iñigo Mujika, Jean-Baptiste Paquet, and Laurent Bosquet

Purpose: To investigate the relationship between physical fitness and repeated high-intensity effort (RHIE) ability in elite rugby union players, depending on playing position. Method: Thirty-nine players underwent a fitness testing battery composed of a body composition assessment, upper-body strength (1-repetition maximum bench press and 1-repetition maximum bench row), lower-body strength (6-repetition maximum back squat), and power (countermovement jump, countermovement jump with arms, and 20-m sprint), as well as aerobic fitness (Bronco test) and RHIE tests over a 1-week period. Pearson linear correlations were used to quantify relationships between fitness tests and the RHIE performance outcomes (total sprint time [TST] and percentage decrement [%D]). Thereafter, a stepwise multiple regression model was used to verify the influence of physical fitness measures on RHIE ability. Results: TST was strongly to very strongly associated to body fat (BF, r = .82, P < .01), the 20-m sprint (r = .86, P < .01), countermovement jump (r = −.72, P < .01), and Bronco test (r = .90, P < .01). These fitness outcomes were related to %D, with moderate to strong associations (.82 > ∣r∣ > .54, P < .01). By playing position, similar associations were observed in forwards, but RHIE ability was only related to the 20-m sprint in backs (r = .53, P < .05). The RHIE performance model equations were TST = 13.69 + 0.01 × BF + 0.08 × Bronco + 10.20 × 20 m and %D = −14.34 + 0.11 × BF +0.18 × Bronco − 9.92 × 20 m. These models explain 88.8% and 68.2% of the variance, respectively. Conclusion: Body composition, lower-body power, and aerobic fitness were highly related with RHIE ability. However, backs expressed a different profile than forwards, suggesting that further research with larger sample sizes is needed to better understand the fitness determinants of backs’ RHIE ability.