Rugby is an 80-minute, high impact collision sport that requires a good level of aerobic fitness or endurance to compete effectively. Much of the game is spent at low speed movement such as walking, or lightly jogging and this is interspersed with periods of very high intensity work such as sprinting, tackling, mauling etc. Well-developed aerobic endurance will allow a player to move around the pitch effectively and to recover efficiently from the high intensity bouts of work throughout the game. Repeated sprint ability may also come under the broad heading of endurance and it can be thought of as the ability of a player to recover and maintain maximal effort during subsequent multiple sprints. In rugby however, the high intensity efforts are not just always sprinting efforts due to the contact nature of the sport. The player must be able to tolerate, recover from and perform subsequent bouts of high metabolic efforts with minimal performance decay to excel.
Figure 11. Endurance becomes more important as the standard and level of play increases (Ross et al 2015; Clarke et al 2017).
The importance of endurance to performance is further highlighted in other research around the topic. Ross and colleagues in 2015 looked at the relationships between physical capacities and match performance in international and provincial rugby sevens players. With regards to endurance they found that high levels of aerobic endurance and repeated sprint performance were moderately correlated to activities performed during a game. Repeated sprint performance for example had a strong relationship with tackle score and players with a poorer repeated sprint performance appear more likely to commit handling errors during a game. Clarke and colleagues in 2017 looked at the physical testing results of male and female rugby sevens players at junior, senior and elite level. With regards to endurance performance they found that as playing level increased endurance testing scores improved also. Elite female players showed a large difference from senior and junior players with regards to endurance performance. This highlights the importance of aerobic endurance ability to the game of rugby sevens especially for females.