Peak Running Intensity of International Rugby: Implications for Training Prescription

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Jace A. Delaney
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Heidi R. Thornton
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John F. Pryor
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Andrew M. Stewart
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Ben J. Dascombe
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Grant M. Duthie
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Purpose:

To quantify the duration and position-specific peak running intensities of international rugby union for the prescription and monitoring of specific training methodologies.

Methods:

Global positioning systems (GPS) were used to assess the activity profile of 67 elite-level rugby union players from 2 nations across 33 international matches. A moving-average approach was used to identify the peak relative distance (m/min), average acceleration/deceleration (AveAcc; m/s2), and average metabolic power (Pmet) for a range of durations (1–10 min). Differences between positions and durations were described using a magnitude-based network.

Results:

Peak running intensity increased as the length of the moving average decreased. There were likely small to moderate increases in relative distance and AveAcc for outside backs, halfbacks, and loose forwards compared with the tight 5 group across all moving-average durations (effect size [ES] = 0.27–1.00). Pmet demands were at least likely greater for outside backs and halfbacks than for the tight 5 (ES = 0.86–0.99). Halfbacks demonstrated the greatest relative distance and Pmet outputs but were similar to outside backs and loose forwards in AveAcc demands.

Conclusions:

The current study has presented a framework to describe the peak running intensities achieved during international rugby competition by position, which are considerably higher than previously reported whole-period averages. These data provide further knowledge of the peak activity profiles of international rugby competition, and this information can be used to assist coaches and practitioners in adequately preparing athletes for the most demanding periods of play.

Delaney and Stewart are with the Inst of Sport Exercise and Active Living, Victoria University, Melbourne, VIC, Australia. Thornton is with Newcastle Knights Rugby League Club, Mayfield, NSW, Australia. Pryor is with JointAction, Dee Why, NSW, Australia. Dascombe is with the La Trobe Sport and Exercise Medicine Research Centre, La Trobe University Bundoora Campus, Melbourne, VIC, Australia. Duthie is with the School of Exercise Science, Australian Catholic University, Strathfield, NSW, Australia.

Delaney (jace.delaney@live.vu.edu.au) is corresponding author.
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