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Purpose: To quantify the frequencies and timings of rugby union match-play phases (ie, attacking, defending, ball in play [BIP], and ball out of play [BOP]) and then compare the physical characteristics of attacking, defending, and BOP between forwards and backs. Methods: Data were analyzed from 59 male rugby union academy players (259 observations). Each player wore a microtechnology device (OptimEye S5; Catapult, Melbourne, Australia) with video footage analyzed for phase timings and frequencies. Dependent variables were analyzed using a linear mixed-effects model and assessed with magnitude-based inferences and Cohen d effect sizes (ES). Results: Attack, defense, BIP, and BOP times were 12.7 (3.1), 14.7 (2.5), 27.4 (2.9), and 47.4 (4.1) min, respectively. Mean attack (26 [17] s), defense (26 [18] s), and BIP (33 [24] s) phases were shorter than BOP phases (59 [33] s). The relative distance in attacking phases was similar (112.2 [48.4] vs 114.6 [52.3] m·min−1, ES = 0.00 ± 0.23) between forwards and backs but greater in forwards (114.5 [52.7] vs 109.0 [54.8] m·min−1, ES = 0.32 ± 0.23) during defense and greater in backs during BOP (ES = −0.66 ± 0.23). Conclusions: Total time in attack, defense, and therefore BIP was less than BOP. Relative distance was greater in forwards during defense, whereas it was greater in backs during BOP and similar between positions during attack. Players should be exposed to training intensities from in-play phases (ie, attack and defense) rather than whole-match data and practice technical skills during these intensities.

Read, Jones, Phibbs, Darrall-Jones, Roe, Weakley, and Till are with the Inst for Sport, Physical Activity & Leisure, Leeds Beckett University, and Yorkshire Carnegie Rugby Union Football Club, Leeds, United Kingdom. Jones is also with Rugby Football League, Leeds, United Kingdom. Williams is with the Dept for Health, University of Bath, Bath, United Kingdom. Rock is with Bath Rugby Club, Bath, United Kingdom.

Read (d.read@leedsbeckett.ac.uk) is corresponding author.
International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance

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