Game demands

The game demands of youth rugby are difficult to specify due to the wide age range (13-18 years old). There are most likely different physical demands evident between players aged 17-18 and players aged 13-14 but both ranges are categorised as youth. A further issue is that the research on game demands for this population group is not as plentiful as the adult group. The studies that are done are often on elite level youth players which may not fully reflect the demands of the community game. However, even with these challenges, the information available allows coaches receive some guidance on the physical demands facing their players.

Rugby is a multi-activity game with many different physical actions of varying intensities being completed over the duration of a game. Position played, level of competition and format of the game played will all affect the physical demands.

GPS (Global Satellite Positioning) is one tool used to assess the physical demands and movement patterns in team sports. The use of GPS is discussed in more detail in the adult online learning module but there have been some GPS studies in youth rugby. A study by Venter et al, (2011) looked at seventeen U19 elite South African rugby players over a period of 5 games to try and identify the physical demands and movement characteristics of the games. The results of the study are summarised in the table below.

Front row forwardsBack row forwardsInside backsOutside backs
% time spent standing21232020
% time spent walking42465360
% time spent jogging26232015
% time spent striding9663
% time spent sprinting0.420.420.261.15
% time spent maximum sprint0.
Average metres covered per game4672430243074597

The results of this study show us that most time on the pitch in all positions is spent at lower intensity movements of standing walking and jogging. This may seem strange given that rugby is viewed as a very high intensity game but this is common due to the stop start nature of the game. These movement patterns also don’t consider the very intense activities of tackling, scrummaging, mauling, and rucking so while the player may not be moving very fast on a GPS monitor they can still be doing very intense work on the pitch. This study also highlighted that back row forwards are involved in the most collisions and outside backs had the least collisions. Collisions of forces greater than 10G were highest in the inside backs and lowest in the front row forwards. That may seem unexpected but the inside backs will often be hitting collisions at much higher speeds than the front row forwards would be and this will massively increase the impact force.

Research by Van Der Berg (2013) looked at U18 South African provincial sevens players. They looked at 160 players over the course of a provincial tournament and used GPS to follow their movement during the game. They found that players on average spent 662 seconds walking or standing compared to 60 seconds running or sprinting. This again may seem unexpected given the perception of sevens as extremely physically challenging but like the study above it is not considering the other intense physical skills of sevens rugby. A work: rest ratio of 1: 17.6 was found in this research which seems high but is only based on the movement of the player and does not count other physical rugby skills.