BACKGROUND:In the elite rugby setting, it is critical to understand the effects of training load on the levels of fatigue, soreness and readiness of the athletes. METHODS:The training load, wellness, neuromuscular markers of fatigue and various perceptual measures of soreness of 16 elite rugby athletes were monitored during a training week. Training load was obtained for field training sessions, extra conditioning and gym-based sessions. Perceptual fatigue was obtained every morning from a 5-item wellness questionnaire and a questionnaire on the muscle soreness of 9 different muscle sites from each side of the body. Neuromuscular performance was obtained from a countermovement jump. RESULTS:Although the training performed on day 4 had a significantly (P<0.05) greater load in comparison to training days 1 and 2, muscle soreness and neuromuscular performance were more adversely effected after the cumulative workloads of days 1 and 2. Moreover, the effect of training load on muscle soreness was only evident in the lower body muscles. Data from the present study also suggest that two days off training are adequate for complete recovery from a high load training week in elite rugby athletes. There were no significant differences in soreness ratings between left and right sides for any of the 9 muscles sites. CONCLUSIONS:There was a clear effect of training load on soreness and neuromuscular fatigue, with greater fatigue following two training days in a row when compared to a single training day. Monitoring soreness from different lower body muscle sites may provide important information that relates to the fatigue levels of rugby athletes and therefore it is recommended to be included as part of the training load monitoring protocol.