The worst case scenario: Locomotor and collision demands of the longest periods of gameplay in professional rugby union Academic Article uri icon


  • A number of studies have used global positioning systems (GPS) to report on positional differences in the physical game demands of rugby union both on an average and singular bout basis. However, the ability of these studies to report quantitative data is limited by a lack of validation of certain aspects of measurement by GPS micro-technology. Furthermore no study has analyzed the positional physical demands of the longest bouts of ball-in-play time in rugby union. The aim of the present study is to compare the demands of the single longest period of ball-in-play, termed "worst case scenario" (WCS) between positional groups, which have previously been reported to have distinguishable game demands. The results of this study indicate that WCS periods follow a similar sporadic pattern as average demands but are played at a far higher pace than previously reported for average game demands with average meters per minute of 116.8 m. The positional differences in running and collision activity previously reported are perpetuated within WCS periods. Backs covered greater total distances than forwards (318 m vs 289 m), carried out more high-speed running (11.1 m·min-1 vs 5.5 m·min-1) and achieved higher maximum velocities (MaxVel). Outside Backs achieved the highest MaxVel values (6.84 m·sec-1). Tight Five and Back Row forwards underwent significantly more collisions than Inside Back and Outside Backs (0.73 & 0.89 collisions·min-1 vs 0.28 & 0.41 collisions·min-1 respectively). The results of the present study provide information on the positional physical requirements of performance in prolonged periods involving multiple high intensity bursts of effort. Although the current state of GPS micro-technology as a measurement tool does not permit reporting of collision intensity or acceleration data, the combined use of video and GPS provides valuable information to the practitioner. This can be used to match and replicate game demands in training.

publication date

  • 2017