Rugby specific sprint demands
Track sprinters are encouraged to run tall with an open chest and a long trunk. While this may be the ideal technique for track sprinters, it may not be ideal for the rugby player. The rugby player who adopts a track sprinter’s technique may leave himself exposed to front-on tackles. Research has shown that top players run with a more closed upper body, forward leaning posture (Sayers, 2000, Spinks et al, 2007). This may be because most high intensity running in rugby will be in the acceleration phase where a forward lean is a key technique point.
Rugby also places a demand on players to sprint while carrying the ball. As the use of the arms is one of the key technique points during high speed running this a unique challenge for rugby players. Walsh et al. (2007) showed that speed was affected negatively when carrying a ball compared to not carrying a ball in amateur rugby players. The speed of elite rugby players however, has been shown not to be significantly affected by either carrying a ball in one or two hands when compared to not carrying a ball (Barr et al, 2015). This suggests that sprinting with a ball is a skill that can be learnt and as such coaches should include drills carrying the ball in speed training. Initially, technique training is performed at submaximal speeds to allow the player to become comfortable and confident and to learn proper acceleration and deceleration mechanics. Once the player has mastered the technique at a submaximal pace, they then can progress to maximum speed training methods. Training methods and the distances completed should be tailored to meet the specific requirements that are evident during match play (Deutsch et al, 2006).