Speed, which can be further divided into acceleration ability and maximal running speed, is of high importance. Speed is the distance covered divided by the time it takes to cover the distance. The ability to break the line, beat a defender, chase down a ball etc. are just some example of when speed is important. Smart and colleagues in 2014 highlighted the importance of speed to both backs’ and forwards’ game behaviours. They showed a consistent relationship between speed over 10,20 or 30 metres and crucial game statistics such as line breaks, metres made, tries scored and defensive positioning. Faster players generally performed better in many rugby performance metrics. This is extremely important as it shows transference of the physical capacity of speed to successful on-field performance. Ross and colleagues in 2015 looked at the relationships between physical capacities and match performance in rugby sevens players. They found a very good relationship between speed over 10 and 40 metres with both attacking and defensive match performance metrics. Speed was correlated with both line breaks and defenders beaten from an attacking standpoint and with tackle success from a defensive standpoint. In sevens rugby the greater pitch space available may also increase the importance of speed in both attacking and defending situations.
Figure 10. Speed has been associated with better match performance and it can be enhanced through strength, power, and specific speed training.
Gill and colleagues in 2013 researched the differences in physical capacities between playing level in rugby union. They found that as playing level increased players got faster. They also found that speed over 20 metres was one of the few variables measured that was able to distinguish between international players and Super Rugby players again highlighting the importance of speed at the highest level of rugby performance. Speed clearly has massive implications for the game and as such its development has a big place in any long-term development plan for the rugby player.