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Movement and physical demands of school and university rugby union match-play in England
  1. Dale Read1,2,
  2. Daniel Weaving1,3,
  3. Padraic Phibbs1,2,
  4. Joshua Darrall-Jones1,2,
  5. Gregory Roe1,2,
  6. Jonathon Weakley1,2,
  7. Sharief Hendricks1,4,
  8. Kevin Till1,2,
  9. Ben Jones1,2,5
  1. 1 Institute for Sport, Physical Activity and Leisure, Leeds Beckett University, Leeds, UK
  2. 2 Yorkshire Carnegie Rugby Union Football Club, Kirkstall Training Ground, Leeds Rugby Academy, Leeds, UK
  3. 3 Department of Sport, Health and Exercise Science, University of Hull, Kingston upon Hull, UK
  4. 4 Division of Exercise Science and Sports Medicine, Department of Human Biology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
  5. 5 The Rugby Football League, Red Hall Lane, Leeds, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Ben Jones; b.jones{at}


Background In England, rugby union is a popular sport and is widely played within schools. Despite the large participation numbers, the movement and physical demands of the sport and how they progress by age have not been explored.

Method Ninety-six male rugby union players wore microtechnology devices during six rugby union matches within the education pathway to investigate the movement and physical demands of match-play. To quantify the positional differences and progression by age, data were obtained for participants at the under 16 (U16) (n=31 participants), under 18 (U18) (n=34 participants) and university (n=31 participants) levels. Players were further divided in forwards and backs. Data were analysed using magnitude-based inferences.

Results For the movement demands, U16 total distance and ‘striding’ was likely higher for forwards than backs, whereas at U18, unclear differences were observed and from university players the inverse was observed (very likely). In all age groups sprint distance was likely to very likely greater for backs than forwards. Forwards had greater physical demands than backs at all age groups. For consecutive age groups, U16 had a likely higher relative distance than U18, and U18 had a likely lower relative distance than university players. Physical demands were similar across age groups for forwards, and greater for backs at older age groups.

Conclusion The movement and physical demands of rugby union players participating in schools (U16 and U18), may not be as expected, however, the findings from university players show a similar pattern to the senior game.

  • Rugby
  • Adolescent
  • School
  • Contact sports

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  • Acknowledgements The authors would like to acknowledge all teachers, coaches and players who were involved in this research study.

  • Contributors DR, BJ and KT are responsible for conceptualisation. DR, PP, JDJ, GR and JW are responsible for data collection and analysis. DR prepared the first draft of the manuscript. DW, SH, BJ and KT assisted with the write-up.

  • Funding The project was part-funded by Yorkshire Carnegie Rugby Union club, as part of the Carnegie Adolescent Rugby Research (CARR) project. Leeds Beckett University provided the remaining funding for research and also open access fees.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethics approval Leeds Beckett University.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement All available data are presented within the manuscript.