One of the most important aspects of sport science and coaching is the ability to make accurate measurements (Hopkins, 2000). Testing deals with detailed examination of the characteristics and properties of an athlete (Stone et al., 2007). Physiological monitoring can provide the coach and sports scientist with an objective and reproducible means of assessing an athlete/player’s training status, physical strengths, and performance capabilities (O’Gorman et al., 2000). Performance in any sport depends upon the skills and physiological characteristics of the athlete and the application of effective training programs. The coach has the responsibility to develop these competitive skills and physiological characteristics in the athlete. The more informed a coach is, the better equipped he or she will be to accomplish both chores (Jones et al., 2008). It is, therefore, essential that fitness testing be administered before an athlete begins a strength and conditioning programme and/or competitive season (Franklin et al., 2000; Svensson and Drust, 2005; Sayers et al., 2008). The same battery should then be administered systematically throughout the season to assess progress (Metaxas et al., 2005; Jullien et al., 2008; Meckel et al., 2009; Walker and Turner, 2009). This allows the monitoring of a programme’s efficacy and can guide the strength and conditioning coach in making adjustments, leading to more successful and economical results (Jones et al., 2008; Turner, 2009). During the competitive season it would be wise to conduct such testing at a time when fatigue will not adversely affect training or game performance. It is suggested that testing occurs on a day which does not fall within two days of a competition (Walker and Turner, 2009), or hard physical training (Little and Williams, 2005).
The purpose of this essay is to provide the strength and conditioning professional with evidence-based information to effectively implement a battery of rugby union-specific field tests.
The aim of physical testing is to identify the physical performance characteristics associated with elite athlete performance and consequently identify whether athletes may improve their physical training to improve their sports performance (Baker, 2009). Insight into the sport’s energy systems demands is necessary to devise appropriate testing and specific strength and conditioning programs (Jones & Climstein, 2002). Certain anthropometric, physical, motor abilities and game-specific variables can distinguish between talented and less talented rugby players (van Gent and Spamer, 2005; Holloway et al., 2008). This information can be used to develop a battery of tests that will measure these qualities (Holloway et al., 2008). The possibility to identify these requirements by using a scientifically compiled test battery for rugby players will assist coaches in the correct selection of players (van Gent and Spamer, 2005).
Specificity is among the most important considerations when one is selecting the appropriate test (Stone et al., 2007). Specificity includes both bioenergetic aspects and mechanics of training (Wilmore and Costill, 1994). The term specificity does not mean that two variables are identical; rather specificity deals with the degree of association between or among these variables (Stone et al., 2007). Holloway et al. (2008) assert that the principle of specificity will play an important role in ensuring that the right tests are identified, ensuring that they replicate the nature and behaviour of the sport (Baechle and Earle, 2000; Ford, 2005). Stone et al. (2007) state that in order to enhance the potential of measuring training gains the exercise used in testing should be the same or as similar as possible with respect to the transfer of movement patterns. Consequently, if generalisations from a specific test are to be made to another activity, that test should be kinetically and kinematically similar to the activity (Stone et al., 2007).
The tools used to measure the variables of interest must be valid and reliable (Stone et al., 2007). To ensure validity, a research instrument must measure what it is intended to measure (Gray, 2009). Measurements must also be reliable (Stone et al., 2007). Reliability is closely linked to validity. Reliability can be defined as;
“The stability or consistency with which we measure something” (Robson, 2002).
Stone et al. (2007) state that sport scientists and coaches must be concerned with test-retest reliability. Test-retest reliability has to do with the degree to which an instrument can produce the same measurements at different times under the same conditions (Stone et al., 2007). Thus, the field tests selected must be specific, valid and reliable.
Why Field Test?
Logistically, it is very difficult to get an athlete or a team of athletes to a testing laboratory (Walker and Turner, 2009). Laboratory measurements are less accessible and often too expensive for routine use (Mirkov et al., 2008). Furthermore, these tests are time-consuming, and as a result, laboratory testing is rarely used throughout the season (Svensson and Drust, 2005).Valid field tests could eliminate many of the laboratory restrictions (O’Gorman et al., 2000). Field tests can reduce dependence on specialized equipment and increase the number of subjects tested at one time (Leger and Boucher, 1980; O’Gorman et al., 2000). Thus, the athlete and coach can receive more regular feedback and, if the test is valid, can obtain information similar to laboratory measures. There is, therefore, a need to implement simple field tests to provide further information (Jones & Climstein, 2002). As a result, the design of multiple valid and reliable field tests has occurred (Castagna et al., 2006a).
Cunniffe et al. (2009) found that players covered an average distance of 6,953 m during a rugby match. The game of rugby union involves high-intensity activity which is interspersed with long periods of lower intensity, primarily aerobic in nature (Nicholas, 1997; Duthie et al., 2003; Cunniffe et al., 2009). This is illustrated by the work to rest ratio during match play of 1:5.7 (Cunniffe et al., 2009). This indicates that for every 1 minute of running, there was almost 6 minutes of lower intensity activity. It has been established that players exercise at ~80 to 85% Vo2 max during the course of a game (Cunniffe et al., 2009). When comparing elite level players in hurling, soccer, Gaelic football, and rugby union Brick and O’Donoghue (2004) found that rugby union backs had the highest estimated Vo2 max. Furthermore, rugby forwards had a higher estimated Vo2 max than hurlers and soccer players. Castagna et al. (2006b) stated that monitoring aerobic fitness on a regular basis is important for assessing the effectiveness of a physical training programme and the preparedness of players to compete. Several field tests for aerobic capacity have been developed (Walker and Turner, 2009).
Player activity during a rugby match involves changes of direction and changes between intense running, jogging, walking and complete rest (Nicholas, 1997; Duthie et al., 2003; Cunniffe et al., 2009). The multistage shuttle test (MST) involves running between 2 markers placed 20m apart at increasingly faster speeds (Walker and Turner, 2009) until volitional fatigue and is used widely in team sports (O’Gorman et al., 2000). It is, therefore, potentially a useful measure of a rugby player’s aerobic capacity. The MST is a widely reported and commonly used field test of endurance capacity (Leger and Boucher, 1980; O’Gorman et al., 2000). The initial design and validation study by Leger and Lambert (1982) found a significant relationship (r = 0.84) between the MST and Vo2 max for a group of healthy male and female adults. Leger et al. (1988) reported that test-retest reliability coefficients for the MST were 0.89 for children and 0.95 for adults. Van Mechelen et al. (1986) found that the MST is a suitable tool for the evaluation of maximal aerobic power. The MST is highly reproducible and is able to track aerobic fitness changes in well-trained athletes (Aziz et al., 2005). Ramsbottom et al. (1988) compared the MST with a laboratory treadmill test that measured VO2 max directly, through the collection of expired air. They found a correlation of r = 0.92 between the two tests (Walker and Turner, 2009). However, in contrast with previously reported data O’Gorman et al. (2000) did not observe a significant relationship between the MST and maximal oxygen uptake determined during a laboratory Vo2 max test for a group of international-level rugby players (r = 0.42). Therefore, event specific field tests may provide a better indication of performance capabilities (O’Gorman et al., 2000). In contrast, O’Gorman et al. (2000) reported the 12-minute run and 3,000-m run appear to be valid predictors of Vo2 max among international rugby players. Thus, for field test measurement of physical conditioning in rugby players, either the 3,000-m run or the 12-minute run appear preferable to the MST.
Atkins (2006), however, states that measuring performance using such tests is problematic. This is particularly evident when assessing performance related to team games such as soccer, rugby, and football. The intermittent nature of these games cannot be replicated by using continuous tests such as the 3,000-m and Cooper 12-minute run. A Yo-Yo Intermittent Recovery Test may provide a more reflective measurement of such games. The Yo-Yo Intermittent Recovery Test is frequently used in field settings (Atkins, 2006). The Yo-Yo Intermittent Recovery Test (Bangsbo, 1994) is reliable and valid in relation to the intermittent demands of rugby league (Atkins, 2006) and soccer play (Krustrup et al., 2003). This test assesses a player’s ability to recover from repeated high-intensity running efforts (Bangsbo, 1994; Krustrup et al., 2003), an essential component of rugby play (Brewer and Davis, 1995; Gabbett, 2002). Atkins (2006) indicated that professional rugby players performed the test to a greater level than did their semi-professional counterparts. Two versions of the Yo-Yo intermittent test exist. The Yo-Yo Intermittent Endurance (YYIE) test (Metaxas et al., 2005; Walker and Turner, 2009; Dupont et al., 2010) allows a recovery period of 5 seconds, while the Yo-Yo Intermittent Recovery (YYIR) test allows 10 seconds (Walker and Turner, 2009). Researchers have validated both the YYIE (Metaxas et al., 2005; Castagna et al., 2006a; Castagna et al., 2006b) and the YYIR (Krustrup et al., 2003; Castagna et al., 2006b; Dupont et al., 2010) tests as reliable, sensitive, and reproducible (Walker and Turner, 2009). The YYIE is more aerobic related in nature, while the YYIE test is aerobic and anaerobic (Castagna et al., 2006b). As rugby union is highly dependant on both the aerobic and anaerobic energy systems (Nicholas, 1997; Duthie et al., 2003; Cunniffe et al., 2009) the YYIE is recommended.
In rugby, high-intensity activity accounts for 14% of game time for the forwards and 6% for the backs (Duthie et al., 2003). The intense efforts undertaken by rugby players place considerable stress on anaerobic energy sources (Duthie et al., 2003). Match analysis has indicated that rugby is an intermittent sport and players must be able to perform a large number of intensive efforts of 5 to 15 seconds’ duration with less than 40 seconds’ recovery between each bout of high intensity activity (Nicholas, 1997).
High-intensity exercise of short duration requires anaerobic fuel sources. Peak anaerobic performance usually occurs within 5–10 seconds of maximal effort. Thereafter, anaerobic power output gradually decreases as one becomes fatigued (Jones et al., 2008). Anaerobic capacity is defined as the total amount of power output for maximal exercise lasting up to 30 seconds (Nieman, 1999; McArdle et al., 2007). The Katch test and the Wingate test (W60) are routine laboratory performance tests that measure anaerobic capacity (Jones et al., 2008). These performance tests on cycle ergometers are repeatable and specific to the ergometer on which they are performed (Bentley et al., 2001), and, thus, they lack specificity to sports that require running leg power (Jones et al., 2008).
The running anaerobic sprint test (RAST) is an anaerobic assessment and predicting short-distance performance. The RAST test involves six 35-meter maximal running performances with a 10-second recovery between each run (Zagatto et al., 2009) Zagatto et al. (2009) reported that there were no significant differences between test-retest scores in the RAST (p > 0.05) and found significant correlations between these variables (intraclass correlation coefficient 0.88). The RAST also had significant correlations with the Wingate test (peak power r = 0.46; mean power r = 0.53; fatigue index r = 0.63) and 35, 50, 100, 200, and 400 m performances scores (p < 0.05) (Zagatto et al., 2009). The RAST has the advantage of allowing for the execution of movements more specific to sporting events that use running as the principal style of locomotion, is easily applied and low cost, and due to its simplicity can easily be incorporated into routine training (Zagatto et al., 2009).
Holloway et al. (2008) have attempted to create a sport specific field test of anaerobic endurance for application in rugby league. Rugby league is similar in many facets of play to rugby union (Gamble, 2004). This is called the T120s. The sport specificity of the T120s was validated against previous analysis of the sport (Meir et al., 2001; Ford, 2005; Holloway et al., 2008). The research results indicate that the T120s test elicits physiological and subjective responses which tax the anaerobic glycolytic pathway (Holloway et al., 2008). The T120s was found to cause higher mean blood lactate concentrations than the W60 cycle test. Holloway et al. (2008) reported a moderate positive correlation of times between the two trials conducted (P = 0.006 and r = 0.744). However, a significant difference (P = 0.002) in the mean total times of both trials was also identified. As yet no norm standards have been identified using the T120s. Thus, classifying players (e.g. excellent, good, above average etc.) and identifying any relationship between playing standard and test result is difficult. The T120s does, however, offer a cheaper alternative to the laboratory based W60 test, and a more specific test than the RAST. This test appears to have great potential as rugby specific anaerobic capacity test, however, because of the only moderate correlation reported and lack of normative data the RAST is recommended.
There is a paucity of data examining the neuromuscular performance of elite rugby union players (Crewther et al., 2009). Much research has, however, been conducted on the strength levels of rugby league players.
Stone et al. (2007) define strength as;
“The ability of the neuromuscular system to produce force against an external resistance” (p. 168).
Levels of upper-body strength and power can distinguish between athletes of different levels in a number of sports (Baker, 2001). Reasonable assessment of training program results and potential for sport performance should include measures (or reasonable estimates) of strength (Stone et al., 2007).
Rugby union is a contact sport involving tackling with the hands, rucks and mauls, all of which require upper body strength (Brick and O’Donoghue, 2004; Chillibeck et al., 2007). Players are required to exert forces dynamically and statically during various game activities. These activities often demand both upper- and lower-body musculature (Cunniffe et al., 2009). Baker (2009) states that the overwhelming body of data clearly illustrates that rugby league players participating in higher levels of competition possess higher maximal strength levels compared with participants in lower ranked competitions (Baker, 2001). Brick and O’Donoghue (2003) found that rugby union forwards had the highest levels of grip strength, and maximal 1-repetition (1RM) performance of a bench press when compared to other football codes. While Gamble (2004) states that maximal strength and explosive power are major program goals in rugby union.
Force is particularly important to power production (Schmidtbleicher, 1992; Stone et al., 2007). Researchers have noted that measures of maximum strength including 1RMs are strongly associated with maximum power production (Moss et al., 1997; Stone et al., 2007). This is illustrated by the high and positive correlation between max power and maximum strength (r = 0.68-0.85; Baker, 2001 r = 0.77-0.94; Asci and Acikada, 2007). Furthermore, significant correlations have been found between the 1RM squat relative to body mass and countermovement jump (CMJ) max power, CMJ max velocity, and CMJ height (Nuzzo et al., 2008). Peterson et al., (2006) provide further support for this, reporting that significant linear relationships between the 1RM squat, vertical jump max power and all explosive performance tests (vertical jump, broad jump, agility t-test, sprint acceleration and sprint velocity) exist. Strength is also strongly related to sprinting ability (Baker and Nance, 1999; Young et al., 2001; Bret et al., 2002; Wisloff et al., 2004; McBride et al., 2009; Walker and Turner, 2009). Consequently, maximal strength appears to play an important role in aiding the power production against large resistances (Baker, 2001). It appears essential to assess a player’s levels of strength.
A 1RM test can be easily implemented (Baker and Newton, 2004). Crewther et al. (2009) provide the following procedure for the back squat (BS) and bench press (BP). Preparation for the BS began with subjects in a standing position, with the loaded bar on the shoulders. Subjects then descended until the thigh was parallel to the ground before extending upward to the start without assistance. The BP began with subjects laid supine on a bench with arms fully extended, with the loaded bar then lowered to the chest before pressing to full extension without assistance. This is in accordance with the protocol used by Ratamess et al. (2007).
Maximum power and strength-endurance are also established as strong descriptors of attainment of elite level in rugby (Baker, 2001). These results tended to hold true across the different team positional groupings. Strength endurance (S-E) is another component of strength. Due to the number of collisions with large opponents that occur during a game, S-E as manifested against heavy resistances is of interest (Gabbet, 2005). It would appear that a test entailing pushing or pressing resistance away from the body would meet the basic upper-body movement specifications for assessing S-E. It is more of a case of choosing the appropriate resistance and test methodology (Baker, 2009). Appropriate tests of absolute S-E have been sought. The great difficulty lies in choosing the appropriate resistance and methodology (Baker, 2009). Baker (2009) identifies the 102.5kg reps to failure test (NFL combine) and the 60 per cent of 1RM reps to failure test (BP RTF 60) as two such tests. Baker (2009) stated that the resistance of 102.5 kg in the NFL combine must be considered too heavy to represent a test of S-E per the ACSM guidelines (Kramer et al., 2002) for rugby players as half of them could not complete at least 10 repetitions.
The high number of repetitions performed by all subjects in the BP RTF 60 suggests that this test may be a more valid test of measuring S-E in rugby players (Baker, 2009). Based on the results of the BP RTF 60 test, it could be more confidently stated that absolute S-E does distinguish between rugby league players of different achievement levels. As rugby is a game where absolute work is important it could be expected that an appropriate test would indicate the importance of absolute S-E in distinguishing between players of different calibre (Baker, 2009). The results for the relative S-E test, however, indicate that differently ranked players of the same maximal strength levels do not possess greater relative S-E abilities (Baker, 2009). Based on these results and those of other studies (McGee and Burkett, 2003), it would indicate that absolute S-E is largely dependent upon maximal strength. Therefore, it seems most time efficient to only conduct maximal strength tests when assessing a player’s strength.
It has been posited that certain balances in strength should exist for opposing muscle groups or actions to improve physical or sports performance or to limit the likelihood of injury (Behm et al., 2002). If one muscle or movement action is markedly stronger than its opposing muscle or movement action, it is thought that performance could be compromised or that muscle strains could occur in the weaker muscles (Durral et al., 2001; Behm et al., 2002). Baker and Newton (2004) state that both upper body pressing and pulling strength are vital for success in rugby. Thus, they conducted a study on 1RM strength in the BP and Pullups. A comparison of the test scores in this study indicate a strength ratio equivalence of around 100%, indicating that the same amount of mass can be lifted in the respective pressing and pulling movements. Baker and Newton (2004) concluded that strength coaches of sports such as rugby in which players must both forcefully press away and pull in opponents should monitor the development of strength in both actions. Consequently, the strength testing protocol will include 1RM tests for squat, bench press and pullups.
It is established that speed and agility are critical attributes of sports performance (Jones et al., 2008). Agility is unique in that as a component of fitness it is poorly understood (Young and Farrow, 2006). Sheppard and Young (2006) reported that sports scientists have yet to agree on a clear definition of agility. Agility has traditionally been defined as speed in changing direction (Sheppard et al., 2006). It has, however, more recently been argued that agility requires not only the ability to change direction with speed, but also some perceptual skill (Serpell et al., 2009). Serpell et al. (2009) states that this argument suggests that agility is multifaceted and that agility itself requires an interaction of a number of components of fitness.
In many field sports, such as rugby, changes of direction are often executed in response to stimuli such as an attacking or defending opponent and, therefore, agile manoeuvres may not be explicitly preplanned (Besier et al., 2001; Farrow et al., 2005; Sheppard et al., 2006). Consequently, agility may be considered an open motor skill that requires perceptual skills and the ability to react quickly. Rather than a closed skill that simply requires change of direction speed (Serpell et al., 2009). This has led Sheppard and Young (2006) to define agility as;
“A rapid whole body movement with change of direction in response to a sports specific stimulus” (p. 922).
There are many field agility tests including the pro agility, T-test, and hexagon test (Walker and Turner, 2009). These tests are widely used, however, they are neither sport specific or incorporate the elements of agility identified by Sheppard and Young (2006). The fact that agility requires perceptual skills and a stimulus led Farrow, Young and Bruce (2005) to develop a sport specific reactive agility test (RAT) for netball. This test incorporated life size video clips of opponents passing a ball. The video clips were occluded at the point of release and participants attempted to intercept the pass by a change of direction. A particular strength of this test was its reproducible nature (Serpell et al., 2009). Serpell et al. (2009) have attempted to create a rugby specific RAT similar to Farrow et al. (2005) test.
The results of Serpell et al. (2009) study indicate strong test-retest reliability (p < 0.05) for the RAT. The authors report that the RAT developed proved both reliable and valid. The mean RAT total agility time was significantly faster for the higher performance group (HPG) compared to the lower performance group (LPG). Serpell et al. (2009) postulated that the HPG were able to identify key sport-specific kinematic cues earlier than the LPG. Consequently, their perception and response time were faster. This notion is in support of a number of studies that have identified that field sports players use kinematic information to make perceptual judgements (Salvesbergh et al., 2002; Farrow and Albernethy, 2005; Farrow et al., 2005b; Serpell et al., 2009). Furthermore, it is widely reported that skilled field spots athletes are able to identify postural cues better than less-skilled players (Williams, 2000; Salvesbergh et al., 2002; Farrow et al., 2005a; Farrow et al., 2005b; Jackson et al., 2006).
Sprinting ability is an integral component of successful performance in a wide variety of sports (Little and Williams, 2005; Young et al., 2001). Measuring the time taken to cover a certain distance is a valid measure of speed and sprinting ability (Walker and Turner, 2009). When conducting speed tests the use of electronic gates is considered optimal (Dupont et al., 2004; Sayers et al., 2008; Walker and Turner, 2009).
Speed and acceleration are important qualities in field sports, with running speed over short distances fundamental to success (Baker & Nance, 1999; Sayers, 2000). Acceleration is an important factor for success in team-sport athletes (Duthie et al., 2006). For many sporting activities, initial speed rather than maximal speed would be considered of greater importance to successful performance (Cronin and Hansen, 2005). In rugby, players accelerate over short distances or accelerate and sprint to make position (Duthie, et al., 2006). Sprinting represents 4% of the game movements for forwards and 25% for the backs (Duthie et al., 2002). Players typically sprint within the range of 10-20 m (Deutsch et al., 1998; Cunniffe et al., 2009). During game play, international- and colts-level players have an average velocity of 5-8m·s-1 (Deutsch et al., 1998; McClean, 1992). Elite track sprinters achieve far greater maximal velocities in excess of 11.5 m·s-1 between 50 and 60 m (Moravec et al., 1987). As a result of the limited distances covered while sprinting and the relatively low velocities attained, the acceleration phase of sprinting is likely to be more important to rugby performance than the maximal velocity attained (Duthie et al., 2006). This view is supported by Cunniffe et al. (2009) who stated that the ability to accelerate quickly is highly important in professional rugby. Furthermore, this study found that the majority of intense accelerations did not occur from a standing starts. Perhaps in light of this, most studies have measured speed from a “rolling” start (Walker and Turner, 2009).
Little and Williams (2005) assert that specific testing procedures for acceleration, maximum speed, and agility should be utilized in sports science. Mirkov et al. (2008) combined both acceleration and speed testing over a 30 m distance by taking split times at 10 m and the end of the sprint. If the required equipment is available this protocol is more efficient (Mirkov et al., 2008; Sayers et al., 2008; Walker and Turner, 2009). The participants voluntarily begin the test in one of two ways. These are either when they break the start line with any part of their body or their rear foot leaves the pedal switch placed behind the start line (Little and Williams, 2005; Walker and Turner, 2009). It is recommended that two (Little and Williams, 2005) to three (Mirkov et al., 2008; Walker and Turner, 2009) repetitions of the sprints be conducted, with between 2 (Little and Willimas, 2005) and 5 minutes (Dupont et al., 2010) of rest between all trials and tests. The best performances in each test should used for analysis (Little and Williams, 2005).
Sequence of Testing
Harman (2008) states that knowledge of exercise physiology helps guide the order of tests and the duration of rest periods between tests. Testing tasks which are highly skillful, such as those which require coordinated movements and an attention to “form”, should be conducted before fatiguing tests so that the latter do not distort the results (Harman, 2008). Consequently, tests should be conducted in the following order: Non-fatiguing tests (e.g. anthropometry), agility, maximum power and strength, sprint tests, local muscular endurance, anaerobic and then finally aerobic capacity tests (Turner, 2009).
When considering the rest periods between tests, the strength and conditioning professional should take the time for restoration of key metabolic substrates into consideration (Walker and Turner, 2009). Tests, such as, the 1RM back squat, bench press and pullup and 30m sprint last around 3 seconds. These tests as these depend on intramuscular stores of adenosine tri-phosphate (ATP) (Gollnick et al., 1986). Hultman and Sjoholm (1986) reported that 3 to 5 minutes recovery is required to completely resynthesise ATP. Thus, 3 to 5 minutes rest is recommended between sets for these tests. However, for tests which also tax intramuscular stores of phosphocreatine (PCr), 8 minutes between repetitions/tests may be warranted as it has been reported that this is the timeframe for full replenishement of PCr (Hultman and Sjoholm, 1986). Consequently, longer rest periods are recommended for tests such as the RAST and YYIE.
In general, the most specific valid and reliable test should be used (Walker and Turner, 2009).
|Anthropometry (e.g., height, weight, and 3-site BF %)||n/a|
|1 RM Squat, Bench Press and Pullup||> 3 minutes between sets and reps|
|RAT agility test||> 5 minutes between reps and test|
|Speed (timing gates at 10 and 30m, with acceleration measured over first 10m and top speed between 10 and 30m gates)||> 3 minutes between repetitions|
|RAST||This test is extremely demanding and also taxes the aerobic system. Therefore, as much rest as possible should be allowed before moving onto the next test. Minimum of 8 minutes before next test.|
Presenting the Data
Newton and Dugan (2002) recommend that strength and conditioning programmes should target the fitness component with the greatest room for improvement. The use of radar plots provide coaches and athletes with a visual tool which quickly and easily identifies areas of strength and weakness relative to the rest of the squad. With this information about an athlete’s physical abilities certain components of their training programme can be emphasised, leading to more successful results.
It is essential that strength and conditioning coaches working in rugby union are able to administer specific, valid, reliable, cost effective and time efficient fitness tests. The outlined testing sequence can be conducted within one day and, therefore, can be administered throughout the season. The data generated by this testing battery should assist the strength and conditioner deciding what, if any, modifications are required to an athlete’s programme. The testing battery provided is designed for use by all players within a rugby union squad. Needs analyses of individual roles of players within a rugby union team, however, reveal that the different playing positions lie on various points on the maximum strength/speed continuum (Gamble, 2004)? Deutsch et al., (2007) found significant demands on all energy systems in all playing positions, yet implied a greater reliance on anaerobic glycolytic metabolism in forwards, due primarily to their regular involvement in non-running intense activities such as rucking, mauling, scrummaging, and tackling. Positional group comparisons indicated that while the greatest differences existed between forwards and backs, each positional group had its own unique demands. These results suggest that rugby training and fitness testing should be tailored specifically to positional groups rather than simply differentiating between forwards and backs (Deutsh et al., 2007). Sadly designing a testing battery for each positional group was beyond the scope of this essay. However, this is an area which warrants attention.