Peak Running Intensity of International Rugby: Implications for Training Prescription

Delaney J.A., Thornton H.R., Pryor J.F., Stewart A.M., Dascombe B.J., Duthie G.M.

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 two separate nations, across 33 international matches. A moving average approach was used to identify the peak relative distance (m·min⁻¹), average acceleration/deceleration (AveAcc; m·s⁻²), 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, half-backs, and loose forwards compared to the tight 5 group across all moving average durations (Effect size; ES = 0.27-1.00). Metabolic power demands were at least likely greater for outside backs and half-backs when compared to the tight 5 (ES = 0.86-0.99). Half-backs demonstrated the greatest relative distance and Pmet outputs, but were similar to outside backs and loose forwards in AveAcc demands.

Conclusions: The present 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.

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