Bigger, stronger, faster, fitter - the differences in physical qualities of school and academy rugby union players


Limited research has compared the physical qualities of adolescent rugby union (RU) players across differing playing standards. This study therefore compared the physical qualities of academy and school Under-18 RU players. One-hundred and eighty-four (professional regional academy, n = 55 school, n = 129) male RU players underwent a physical testing battery to quantify height, body mass, strength (bench press and pull-up), speed (10, 20 and 40 m), 10 m momentum (calculated 10 m velocity x body mass) and a proxy measure of aerobic fitness (Yo-Yo Intermittent Recovery Test Level 1 IRTL1). The practical significance of differences between playing levels were assessed using magnitude-based inferences. Academy players were taller (very likely small), heavier (likely moderate) and stronger (bench press possibly large; pull-up plus body mass likely small) than school players. Academy players were faster than school players over 20 and 40 m (possibly and likely small), although differences in 10 m speed were not apparent (possibly trivial). Academy players displayed greater 10 m momentum (likely moderate) and greater IRTL1 performance (likely small) than school players. These findings suggest that body size, strength, running momentum, 40 m speed and aerobic fitness contribute to a higher playing standard in adolescent rugby union.

Journal of Sports Sciences 2018, 36(21)2399-2404
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Jason Tee
Jason Tee
Coach educator and performance consultant

Coach and sports scientist with an interest in player and coach development