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Alex Ross, Nicholas D. Gill, and John B. Cronin

Anthropometrical and physical characteristics have been used to distinguish players of different competition levels and position groups; however, there is no literature on rugby sevens.

Purpose:

To compare the anthropometrical and physical characteristics of international and provincial rugby sevens players and between forwards and backs.

Methods:

To assess whether differences exist, 65 rugby sevens players including 22 international players and 43 provincial-level players were assessed for height, mass, body composition, speed, repeated-sprint ability, lower-body power, upper-body strength, and maximal aerobic endurance during in-season preparation for tournaments.

Results:

Clear differences (2.8−32%; small to very large effect sizes) were observed in all anthropometrical and physical measures between international and provincial players, with the largest differences observed in repeated-sprint ability (5.7%; very large effect size), 40-m-sprint time (4.4%; large effect size), 50-kg squat-jump peak power (32%; large effect size), and multistage fitness-test performance (19%; large effect size). Fewer and smaller differences (0.7−14%; trivial to large effect sizes) were found when comparing forwards and backs, with body height being the most discriminant characteristic (3.5%; large effect size).

Conclusions:

Lower-level rugby sevens players should seek to improve their overall physical profile, particularly their repeated-sprint ability, to reach higher levels in rugby sevens. Furthermore, positional status may have little importance when preparing for rugby sevens.

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Alex Ross, Nicholas D. Gill, and John B. Cronin

Purpose:

To compare the running demands and match activity profiles of international and provincial rugby sevens players.

Participants:

84 rugby sevens players, consisting of 16 international players from 1 team and 68 provincial players from 8 teams.

Methods:

Global positioning system analysis was completed during international and provincial tournament matches. Video analysis was also used to quantify the individual match activities during tournament matches.

Results:

Trivial to moderate differences were found in the running demands of international and provincial players, with internationals covering a greater distance at very high speed (ES = 0.30) and performing a greater number of sprints (ES = 0.80). Small differences were found between the 2 levels in all but total tackles (ES = 0.07) and defensive ruck effectiveness (ES = 0.64). International matches incurred a greater overall ball-in-play time than provincial matches (proportion ratio = 1.32).

Conclusions:

These findings demonstrate that both physical and technical factors distinguish international and provincial rugby sevens, although overall match demands are similar.

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Christos K. Argus, Nicholas D. Gill, Justin W.L. Keogh, Michael R. McGuigan, and Will G. Hopkins

Purpose:

There is little literature comparing contrast training programs typically performed by team-sport athletes within a competitive phase. We compared the effects of two contrast training programs on a range of measures in high-level rugby union players during the competition season.

Methods:

The programs consisted of a higher volume-load (strength-power) or lower volume-load (speed-power) resistance training; each included a tapering of loading (higher force early in the week, higher velocity later in the week) and was performed twice a week for 4 wk. Eighteen players were assessed for peak power during a bodyweight countermovement jump (BWCMJ), bodyweight squat jump (BWSJ), 50 kg countermovement jump (50CMJ), 50 kg squat jump (50SJ), broad jump (BJ), and reactive strength index (RSI; jump height divided by contact time during a depth jump). Players were then randomized to either training group and were reassessed following the intervention. Inferences were based on uncertainty in outcomes relative to thresholds for standardized changes.

Results:

There were small between-group differences in favor of strength-power training for mean changes in the 50CMJ (8%; 90% confidence limits, ±8%), 50SJ (8%; ±10%), and BJ (2%; ±3%). Differences between groups for BWCMJ, BWSJ, and reactive strength index were unclear. For most measures there were smaller individual differences in changes with strength-power training.

Conclusion:

Our findings suggest that high-level rugby union athletes should be exposed to higher volume-load contrast training which includes one heavy lifting session each week for larger and more uniform adaptation to occur in explosive power throughout a competitive phase of the season.

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Kristie-Lee Taylor, John Cronin, Nicholas D. Gill, Dale W. Chapman, and Jeremy Sheppard

Purpose:

This investigation aimed to quantify the typical variation for kinetic and kinematic variables measured during loaded jump squats.

Methods:

Thirteen professional athletes performed six maximal effort countermovement jumps on four occasions. Testing occurred over 2 d, twice per day (8 AM and 2 PM) separated by 7 d, with the same procedures replicated on each occasion. Jump height, peak power (PP), relative peak power (RPP), mean power (MP), peak velocity (PV), peak force (PF), mean force (MF), and peak rate of force development (RFD) measurements were obtained from a linear optical encoder attached to a 40 kg barbell.

Results:

A diurnal variation in performance was observed with afternoon values displaying an average increase of 1.5–5.6% for PP, RPP, MP, PV, PF, and MF when compared with morning values (effect sizes ranging from 0.2–0.5). Day to day reliability was estimated by comparing the morning trials (AM reliability) and the afternoon trials (PM reliability). In both AM and PM conditions, all variables except RFD demonstrated coefficients of variations ranging between 0.8–6.2%. However, for a number of variables (RPP, MP, PV and height), AM reliability was substantially better than PM. PF and MF were the only variables to exhibit a coefficient of variation less than the smallest worthwhile change in both conditions.

Discussion:

Results suggest that power output and associated variables exhibit a diurnal rhythm, with improved performance in the afternoon. Morning testing may be preferable when practitioners are seeking to conduct regular monitoring of an athlete’s performance due to smaller variability.

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Matthew R. Blair, Nathan Elsworthy, Nancy J. Rehrer, Chris Button, and Nicholas D. Gill

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.

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Matt R. Cross, Matt Brughelli, Scott R. Brown, Pierre Samozino, Nicholas D. Gill, John B. Cronin, and Jean-Benoît Morin

Purpose:

To compare mechanical properties of overground sprint running in elite rugby union and rugby league athletes.

Methods:

Thirty elite rugby code (15 rugby union and 15 rugby league) athletes participated in this cross-sectional analysis. Radar was used to measure maximal overground sprint performance over 20 or 30 m (forwards and backs, respectively). In addition to time at 2, 5, 10, 20, and 30 m, velocity-time signals were analyzed to derive external horizontal force–velocity relationships with a recently validated method. From this relationship, the maximal theoretical velocity, external relative and absolute horizontal force, horizontal power, and optimal horizontal force for peak power production were determined.

Results:

While differences in maximal velocity were unclear between codes, rugby union backs produced moderately faster split times, with the most substantial differences occurring at 2 and 5 m (ES 0.95 and 0.86, respectively). In addition, rugby union backs produced moderately larger relative horizontal force, optimal force, and peak power capabilities than rugby league backs (ES 0.73−0.77). Rugby union forwards had a higher absolute force (ES 0.77) despite having ~12% more body weight than rugby league forwards.

Conclusions:

In this elite sample, rugby union athletes typically displayed greater short-distance sprint performance, which may be linked to an ability to generate high levels of horizontal force and power. The acceleration characteristics presented in this study could be a result of the individual movement and positional demands of each code.

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Jad Adrian Washif, Øyvind Sandbakk, Stephen Seiler, Thomas Haugen, Abdulaziz Farooq, Ken Quarrie, Dina C. Janse van Rensburg, Isabel Krug, Evert Verhagen, Del P. Wong, Iñigo Mujika, Cristina Cortis, Monoem Haddad, Omid Ahmadian, Mahmood Al Jufaili, Ramzi A. Al-Horani, Abdulla Saeed Al-Mohannadi, Asma Aloui, Achraf Ammar, Fitim Arifi, Abdul Rashid Aziz, Mikhail Batuev, Christopher Martyn Beaven, Ralph Beneke, Arben Bici, Pallawi Bishnoi, Lone Bogwasi, Daniel Bok, Omar Boukhris, Daniel Boullosa, Nicola Bragazzi, Joao Brito, Roxana Paola Palacios Cartagena, Anis Chaouachi, Stephen S. Cheung, Hamdi Chtourou, Germina Cosma, Tadej Debevec, Matthew D. DeLang, Alexandre Dellal, Gürhan Dönmez, Tarak Driss, Juan David Peña Duque, Cristiano Eirale, Mohamed Elloumi, Carl Foster, Emerson Franchini, Andrea Fusco, Olivier Galy, Paul B. Gastin, Nicholas Gill, Olivier Girard, Cvita Gregov, Shona Halson, Omar Hammouda, Ivana Hanzlíková, Bahar Hassanmirzaei, Kim Hébert-Losier, Hussein Muñoz Helú, Tomás Herrera-Valenzuela, Florentina J. Hettinga, Louis Holtzhausen, Olivier Hue, Antonio Dello Iacono, Johanna K. Ihalainen, Carl James, Saju Joseph, Karim Kamoun, Mehdi Khaled, Karim Khalladi, Kwang Joon Kim, Lian-Yee Kok, Lewis MacMillan, Leonardo Jose Mataruna-Dos-Santos, Ryo Matsunaga, Shpresa Memishi, Grégoire P. Millet, Imen Moussa-Chamari, Danladi Ibrahim Musa, Hoang Minh Thuan Nguyen, Pantelis T. Nikolaidis, Adam Owen, Johnny Padulo, Jeffrey Cabayan Pagaduan, Nirmala Panagodage Perera, Jorge Pérez-Gómez, Lervasen Pillay, Arporn Popa, Avishkar Pudasaini, Alizera Rabbani, Tandiyo Rahayu, Mohamed Romdhani, Paul Salamh, Abu-Sufian Sarkar, Andy Schillinger, Heny Setyawati, Navina Shrestha, Fatona Suraya, Montassar Tabben, Khaled Trabelsi, Axel Urhausen, Maarit Valtonen, Johanna Weber, Rodney Whiteley, Adel Zrane, Yacine Zerguini, Piotr Zmijewski, Helmi Ben Saad, David B. Pyne, Lee Taylor, and Karim Chamari

Purpose: To investigate differences in athletes’ knowledge, beliefs, and training practices during COVID-19 lockdowns with reference to sport classification and sex. This work extends an initial descriptive evaluation focusing on athlete classification. Methods: Athletes (12,526; 66% male; 142 countries) completed an online survey (May–July 2020) assessing knowledge, beliefs, and practices toward training. Sports were classified as team sports (45%), endurance (20%), power/technical (10%), combat (9%), aquatic (6%), recreational (4%), racquet (3%), precision (2%), parasports (1%), and others (1%). Further analysis by sex was performed. Results: During lockdown, athletes practiced body-weight-based exercises routinely (67% females and 64% males), ranging from 50% (precision) to 78% (parasports). More sport-specific technical skills were performed in combat, parasports, and precision (∼50%) than other sports (∼35%). Most athletes (range: 50% [parasports] to 75% [endurance]) performed cardiorespiratory training (trivial sex differences). Compared to prelockdown, perceived training intensity was reduced by 29% to 41%, depending on sport (largest decline: ∼38% in team sports, unaffected by sex). Some athletes (range: 7%–49%) maintained their training intensity for strength, endurance, speed, plyometric, change-of-direction, and technical training. Athletes who previously trained ≥5 sessions per week reduced their volume (range: 18%–28%) during lockdown. The proportion of athletes (81%) training ≥60 min/session reduced by 31% to 43% during lockdown. Males and females had comparable moderate levels of training knowledge (56% vs 58%) and beliefs/attitudes (54% vs 56%). Conclusions: Changes in athletes’ training practices were sport-specific, with few or no sex differences. Team-based sports were generally more susceptible to changes than individual sports. Policy makers should provide athletes with specific training arrangements and educational resources to facilitate remote and/or home-based training during lockdown-type events.