Assessing Worst Case Scenarios in Movement Demands Derived from Global Positioning Systems During International Rugby Union Matches: Rolling Averages versus Fixed Length Epochs

Cunningham, D. J.; Shearer, D. A.; Carter, N.; Drawer, S.; Pollard, B.; Bennett, M.; Eager, R.; Cook, C. J.; Farrell, J.; Russell, M.; Kilduff, L. P.

This study compared the use of rolling average (ROLL) and fixed-time (FIXED) epochs for quantifying the peak movement demands of international rugby union match-play across different playing positions. Elite players from three different squads were monitored during matches, and peak values of high-speed running (HSR) and relative distance covered were assessed using both ROLL and FIXED methods over varying time periods (60–300 seconds).

The findings indicated that regardless of the method used, as the epoch length increased, the intensity of running actions decreased. However, there were significant between-method differences in estimates of relative distance covered and HSR, with movement demands consistently underestimated by the FIXED method compared to ROLL. The underestimation was most pronounced with shorter time epochs (e.g., 60 seconds). Additionally, the underestimation was more significant for HSR values, particularly in the backs position.

Linear mixed modeling further highlighted differences between playing positions, with certain positions showing greater relative distance covered or HSR compared to others.

Overall, the study suggests that the FIXED method may underestimate movement demands, particularly for shorter time epochs, and that coaches should consider these findings when designing training programs to ensure specificity and preparation for the most demanding phases of matches. The data provides valuable insights into game demands and can inform the development of training strategies to optimize player performance.

View this research