The specificity of contemporary training practices of international rugby sevens players is unknown. We quantified the positional group-specific activity profiles and physiological demands of on-field training activities and compared these to match demands. Twenty-two international matches and 63 rugby-specific training drills were monitored in 25 backs and 17 forwards from a national squad of male rugby sevens players over a 21-month period. Drills were classified into three categories: low-intensity skill-refining (n = 23 drills, 560 observations), moderate- to high-intensity skill-refining (n = 28 drills, 600 observations), and game-simulation (n = 12 drills, 365 observations). Movement patterns (via GPS devices) and physiological load (via heart rate monitors) were recorded for all activities and differences between training and matches quantified using magnitude-based inferential statistics. Distance covered in total and at >=3.5 m[middle dot]s-1, maximal velocity, and frequency of accelerations and decelerations were lower in forwards during competition compared with backs by a small but practically important magnitude. No clear positional group differences were observed for physiological load during matches. Training demands exceeded match demands only for frequency of decelerations of forwards during moderate- to high-intensity skill-refining drills and only by a small amount. Accelerations and distance covered at >=6 m[middle dot]s-1 were closer to match values for forwards than backs during all training activities, but training drills consistently fell below the demands of international competition. Coaches could therefore improve physical and physiological specificity by increasing the movement demands and intensity of training drills.
Copyright (C) 2014 by the National Strength & Conditioning Association.