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Julien Robineau, Mathieu Lacome, Julien Piscione, Xavier Bigard and Nicolas Babault

Purpose:

To assess the impact of 2 high-intensity interval-training (HIT) programs (short interval vs sprint interval training) on muscle strength and aerobic performances in a concurrent training program in amateur rugby sevens players.

Methods:

Thirty-six amateur rugby sevens players were randomly assigned to strength and short interval training (INT), strength and sprint interval training (SIT), or a strength-only training group (CON) during an 8-wk period. Maximal strength and power tests, aerobic measurements (peak oxygen uptake [VO2peak] and maximal aerobic velocity), and a specific repeated-sprint ability (RSA) test were conducted before and immediately after the overall training period.

Results:

From magnitude-based inference and effect size (ES ± 90% confidence limit) analyses, the current study revealed substantial gains in maximal strength and jump-height performance in all groups. The difference in change of slow concentric torque production was greater in CON than in SIT (0.65 ± 0.72, moderate). VO2peak and, consequently, mean performance in the RSA test were improved in the SIT group only (0.64 ± 0.29, moderate; –0.54 ± 0.35, moderate).

Conclusions:

The study did not emphasize interference on strength development after INT but showed a slight impairment of slow concentric torque production gains after SIT. Compared with INT, SIT would appear to be more effective to develop VO2peak and RSA but could induce lower muscle-strength gains, especially at low velocity.

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Mathieu Lacome, Julien Piscione, Jean-Philippe Hager and Christopher Carling

Purpose:

To investigate the patterns and performance of substitutions in 18 international 15-a-side men’s rugby union matches.

Methods:

A semiautomatic computerized time–motion system compiled 750 performance observations for 375 players (422 forwards, 328 backs). Running and technical-performance measures included total distance run, high-intensity running (>18.0 km/h), number of individual ball possessions and passes, percentage of passes completed, and number of attempted and percentage of successful tackles.

Results:

A total of 184 substitutions (85.2%) were attributed to tactical and 32 (14.8%) to injury purposes respectively. The mean period for non-injury-purpose substitutions in backs (17.7%) occurred between 70 and 75 min, while forward substitutions peaked equally between 50–55 and 60–65 min (16.4%). Substitutes generally demonstrated improved running performance compared with both starter players who completed games and players whom they replaced (small differences, ES –0.2 to 0.5) in both forwards and backs over their entire time played. There was also a trend for better running performance in forward and back substitutes over their first 10 min of play compared with the final 10 min for replaced players (small to moderate differences, ES 0.3–0.6). Finally, running performance in both forward and back substitutes was generally lower (ES –0.1 to 0.3, unclear or small differences) over their entire 2nd-half time played compared with their first 10 min of play. The impact of substitutes on technical performance was generally considered unclear.

Conclusions:

This information provides practitioners with practical data relating to the physical and technical contributions of substitutions that subsequently could enable optimization of their impact on match play.

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Bruno Marrier, Yann Le Meur, Cédric Leduc, Julien Piscione, Mathieu Lacome, Germain Igarza, Christophe Hausswirth, Jean-Benoît Morin and Julien Robineau

Purpose: To describe the training periodization in rugby sevens players competing in the World Rugby Sevens Series during a non-Olympic season. Methods: Workload data were collected over a 33-wk period in 12 male players participating in a full competitive season. Workload was quantified using session rating of perceived exertion and global positioning system–derived data during training and competition. Self-reported well-being was assessed using a questionnaire. Each variable was analyzed weekly and through 5 mesocycles (preseason, in-season 1–4), each of which ended with competition blocks. Results: The perceived load decreased throughout the season for the full squad (−68% [26%] between preseason and final competitive block, large effect) and when unavailable players were removed from the analysis (−38% [42%], moderate). Weekly perceived load was highly variable, with a typical periodization in 4 phases during each mesocycle (regeneration, training overload, taper, and competition). During the preseason, the workload was higher during the overload training phase than during the competitive period (range: +23% to +59%, large to very large, for the distance covered above individual maximal aerobic speed and the number of accelerations). This observation no longer persisted during the season. The well-being score decreased almost certainly from in-season 3 (moderate). Conclusions: These results highlighted the apparent difficulty in maintaining high-load training periods throughout the season in players engaged on the World Rugby Sevens Series despite ∼4–7 training weeks separating each competitive block. This observation was likely explained by the difficulties inherent to the World Rugby Sevens Series (risk of contact injury, calendar, and multiple long-haul travel episodes) and potentially by limited squad-rotation policies.

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Bruno Marrier, Yann Le Meur, Julien Robineau, Mathieu Lacome, Anthony Couderc, Christophe Hausswirth, Julien Piscione and Jean-Benoît Morin

Purpose:

To compare the sensitivity of a sprint vs a countermovement-jump (CMJ) test after an intense training session in international rugby sevens players, as well as analyze the effects of fatigue on sprint acceleration.

Methods:

Thirteen international rugby sevens players completed two 30-m sprints and a set of 4 repetitions of CMJ before and after a highly demanding rugby sevens training session.

Results:

Change in CMJ height was unclear (–3.6%; ±90% confidence limits 11.9%. Chances of a true positive/trivial/negative change: 24/10/66%), while a very likely small increase in 30-m sprint time was observed (1.0%; ±0.7%, 96/3/1%). A very likely small decrease in the maximum horizontal theoretical velocity (V0) (–2.4; ±1.8%, 1/4/95%) was observed. A very large correlation (r = –.79 ± .23) between the variations of V0 and 30-m-sprint performance was also observed. Changes in 30-m sprint time were negatively and very largely correlated with the distance covered above the maximal aerobic speed (r = –.71 ± .32).

Conclusions:

The CMJ test appears to be less sensitive than the sprint test, which casts doubts on the usefulness of a vertical-jump test in sports such as rugby that mainly involve horizontal motions. The decline in sprint performance relates more to a decrease in velocity than in force capability and is correlated with the distance covered at high intensity.

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Bruno Marrier, Julien Robineau, Julien Piscione, Mathieu Lacome, Alexis Peeters, Christophe Hausswirth, Jean-Benoît Morin and Yann Le Meur

Peaking for major competition is considered critical for maximizing team-sport performance. However, there is little scientific information available to guide coaches in prescribing efficient tapering strategies for team-sport players.

Purpose:

To monitor the changes in physical performance in elite team-sport players during a 3-wk taper after a preseason training camp.

Methods:

Ten male international rugby sevens players were tested before (Pre) and after (Post) a 4-wk preseason training camp focusing on high-intensity training and strength training with moderate loads and once each week during a subsequent 3-wk taper. During each testing session, midthigh-pull maximal strength, sprint-acceleration mechanical outputs, and performance, as well as repeated-sprint ability (RSA), were assessed.

Results:

At Post, no single peak performance was observed for maximal lower-limb force output and sprint performance, while RSA peaked for only 1 athlete. During the taper, 30-m-sprint time decreased almost certainly (–3.1% ± 0.9%, large), while maximal lower-limb strength and RSA, respectively, improved very likely (+7.7% ± 5.3%, small) and almost certainly (+9.0% ± 2.6%, moderate). Of the peak performances, 70%, 80%, and 80% occurred within the first 2 wk of taper for RSA, maximal force output, and sprint performance, respectively.

Conclusions:

These results show the sensitivity of physical qualities to tapering in rugby sevens players and suggest that an ~1- to 2-wk tapering time frame appears optimal to maximize the overall physical-performance response.

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Anthony Couderc, Claire Thomas, Mathieu Lacome, Julien Piscione, Julien Robineau, Rémi Delfour-Peyrethon, Rachel Borne and Christine Hanon

Purpose:

To investigate the running demands and associated metabolic perturbations during an official rugby sevens tournament.

Methods:

Twelve elite players participated in 7 matches wearing GPS units. Maximal sprinting speed (MSS) and maximal aerobic speed (MAS) were measured. High-intensity threshold was individualized relative to MAS (>100% of MAS), and very-high-intensity distance was reported relative to both MAS and MSS. Blood samples were taken at rest and after each match.

Results:

Comparison of prematch and postmatch samples revealed significant (P < .01) changes in pH (7.41–7.25), bicarbonate concentration ([HCO3]) (24.8–13.6 mmol/L), and lactate concentration ([La]) (2.4–11.9 mmol/L). Mean relative total distance covered was 91 ± 13 m/min with ~17 m/min at high-intensity. Player status (whole-match or interchanged players), match time, and total distance covered had no significant impact on metabolic indices. Relative distance covered at high intensity was negatively correlated with pH and [HCO3] (r = .44 and r = .42, respectively; P < .01) and positively correlated with [La] (r = .36; P < .01). Total distance covered and distance covered at very high intensity during the 1-min peak activity in the last 3 min of play were correlated with [La] (r = .39 and r = .39, respectively; P < .01).

Conclusions:

Significant alterations in blood-metabolite indices from prematch to postmatch sampling suggest that players were required to tolerate a substantial level of acidosis related to metabolite accumulation. In addition, the ability to produce energy via the glycolytic energy pathway seems to be a major determinant in match-related running performance.

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Mathieu Lacome, Christopher Carling, Jean-Philippe Hager, Gerard Dine and Julien Piscione

Purpose: To examine the effects of an intensified tournament on workload, perceptual and neuromuscular fatigue, and muscle-damage responses in an international under-20 rugby union team. Methods: Players were subdivided into a high-exposure group (HEG, n = 13) and a low-exposure group (LEG, n = 11) according to match-play exposure time. Measures monitored over the 19-d period included training session (n = 10) and match (n = 5) workload determined via global positioning systems and session rating of perceived exertion. Well-being scores, countermovement jump height performance, and blood creatine kinase concentrations were collected at various time points. Results: Analysis of workload cumulated across the tournament entirety for training and match play combined showed that high-speed running distance was similar between groups, while a very likely larger session rating of perceived exertion load was reported in HEG vs LEG. In HEG, high-speed activity fluctuated across the 5 successive matches, albeit with no clear trend for a progressive decrease. No clear tendency for a progressive decrease in well-being scores prior to or following matches was observed in either group. In HEG, trivial to possibly small reductions in postmatch countermovement jump performance were observed, while unclear to most likely moderate increases in prematch blood creatine kinase concentrations occurred until prior to match 4. Conclusions: The magnitude of match-to-match changes in external workload, perceptual and neuromuscular fatigue, and muscle damage was generally unclear or small. These results suggest that irrespective of exposure time to match play players generally maintained performance and readiness to play across the intensified tournament. These findings support the need for holistic systematic player-monitoring programs.

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Bruno Marrier, Alexandre Durguerian, Julien Robineau, Mounir Chennaoui, Fabien Sauvet, Aurélie Servonnet, Julien Piscione, Bertrand Mathieu, Alexis Peeters, Mathieu Lacome, Jean-Benoit Morin and Yann Le Meur

Purpose: Preconditioning strategies are considered opportunities to optimize performance on competition day. Although investigations conducted in rugby players on the effects of a morning preconditioning session have been done, additional work is warranted. The aim of this study was to monitor changes in physical and psychophysiological indicators among international Rugby-7s players after a priming exercise. Methods: In a randomized crossover design, 14 under-18 international Rugby-7s players completed, at 8:00 AM, a preconditioning session consisting of a warm-up followed by small-sided games, accelerations, and 2 × 50-m maximal sprints (Experimental), or no preloading session (Control). After a 2-h break, the players performed a set of six 30-m sprints and a Rugby-7s match. Recovery–stress state and salivary stress-marker levels were assessed before the preloading session (Pre), immediately after the preloading session (Post 1), before the testing session (Post 2), and after the testing session (Post 3). Results: Experimental–Control differences in performance across a repeated-sprint test consisting of six 30-m sprints were very likely trivial (+0.2, ±0.7%, 3/97/1%). During the match, the total distance covered and the frequency of decelerations were possibly lower (small) in Experimental compared with Control. Differences observed in the other parameters were unclear or possibly trivial. At Post 2, the perceived recovery–stress state was improved (small difference) in Experimental compared with Control. No difference in salivary cortisol response was observed, while the preconditioning session induced a higher stimulation of salivary testosterone and α-amylase. Conclusions: The players’ ability to repeat sprints and physical activity in match play did not improve, but their psychophysiological state was positively affected after the present preconditioning session.