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Applied Sport Science for Male Age-Grade Rugby Union in England

  • Till, Kevin1, 2, 3
  • Weakley, Jonathon1, 4
  • Read, Dale B.1
  • Phibbs, Padraic1, 5
  • Darrall-Jones, Josh1, 6
  • Roe, Greg1, 6
  • Chantler, Sarah1, 3
  • Mellalieu, Stephen7
  • Hislop, Michael8
  • Stokes, Keith9, 10
  • Rock, Andrew6
  • Jones, Ben1, 2, 3, 11, 12, 13
  • 1 Leeds Beckett University, Leeds, West Yorkshire, UK , Leeds (United Kingdom)
  • 2 Leeds Rhinos RLFC, Leeds, UK , Leeds (United Kingdom)
  • 3 Yorkshire Carnegie RUFC, Leeds, UK , Leeds (United Kingdom)
  • 4 School of Behavioural and Health Sciences, Australian Catholic University, Brisbane, Australia , Brisbane (Australia)
  • 5 Leinster Rugby, Belfield, Dublin, Republic of Ireland , Dublin (Ireland)
  • 6 Bath RUFC, Bath, UK , Bath (United Kingdom)
  • 7 Cardiff Metropolitan University, Cardiff, UK , Cardiff (United Kingdom)
  • 8 World Rugby, Dublin, Ireland , Dublin (Ireland)
  • 9 University of Bath, Bath, UK , Bath (United Kingdom)
  • 10 Rugby Football Union, London, UK , London (United Kingdom)
  • 11 Rugby Football League, Red Hall, Leeds, UK , Leeds (United Kingdom)
  • 12 University of New England, Armidale, NSW, Australia , Armidale (Australia)
  • 13 The University of Cape Town and the Sports Science Institute of South Africa, Cape Town, South Africa , Cape Town (South Africa)
Published Article
Sports Medicine - Open
Springer International Publishing
Publication Date
Feb 21, 2020
DOI: 10.1186/s40798-020-0236-6
Springer Nature


Rugby union (RU) is a skill-collision team sport played at junior and senior levels worldwide. Within England, age-grade rugby governs the participation and talent development of youth players. The RU player development pathway has recently been questioned, regarding player performance and well-being, which sport science research can address. The purpose of this review was to summarise and critically appraise the literature in relation to the applied sport science of male age-grade RU players in England focussing upon (1) match-play characteristics, (2) training exposures, (3) physical qualities, (4) fatigue and recovery, (5) nutrition, (6) psychological challenges and development, and (7) injury. Current research evidence suggests that age, playing level and position influence the match-play characteristics of age-grade RU. Training exposures of players are described as ‘organised chaos’ due to the multiple environments and stakeholders involved in coordinating training schedules. Fatigue is apparent up to 72 h post match-play. Well-developed physical qualities are important for player development and injury risk reduction. The nutritional requirements are high due to the energetic costs of collisions. Concerns around the psychological characteristics have also been identified (e.g. perfectionism). Injury risk is an important consideration with prevention strategies available. This review highlights the important multi-disciplinary aspects of sport science for developing age-grade RU players for continued participation and player development. The review describes where some current practices may not be optimal, provides a framework to assist practitioners to effectively prepare age-grade players for the holistic demands of youth RU and considers areas for future research.

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