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Relationship Between Maximum Aerobic Speed Performance and Distance Covered in Rugby Union Games

Swaby, Rick; Jones, Paul A.; Comfort, Paul

Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: October 2016 - Volume 30 - Issue 10 - p 2788–2793
doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000001375
Original Research

Swaby, R, Jones, PA, and Comfort, P. Relationship between maximum aerobic speed performance and distance covered in rugby union games. J Strength Cond Res 30(10): 2788–2793, 2016—Researchers have shown a clear relationship between aerobic fitness and the distance covered in professional soccer, although no research has identified such a relationship in rugby union. Therefore, the aim of the study was to identify whether there was a relationship between maximal aerobic speed (MAS) and the distance covered in rugby union games. Fourteen professional rugby union players (age = 26 ± 6 years, height = 1.90 ± 0.12 m, mass = 107.1 ± 24.1 kg) participated in this investigation. Each player performed a MAS test on 3 separate occasions during the preseason, to determine reliability and provide baseline data, and participated in 6 competitive games during the early stages of the season. Game data were collected using global positioning system technology. No significant difference (p > 0.05) in total distance covered was observed between games. Relationships between players' MAS and the average distance covered from 6 competitive games were explored using Pearson's correlation coefficients, with MAS performance showing a strong relationship with distance covered during match play (r = 0.746, p < 0.001). Significantly greater (p = 0.001, Cohen's d = 2.29) distances were covered by backs (6,544 ± 573 m) compared with the forwards (4,872 ± 857 m) during a game. Similarly, backs recorded a significantly (p = 0.001, Cohen's d = 2.20) higher MAS (4.9 ± 0.13 m·s−1) compared with the forwards (4.2 ± 0.43 m·s−1). Results of the study illustrate the importance of developing high levels of aerobic fitness to increase the distance that the athlete covers in the game.

1Sale Sharks RFU, Carrington, United Kingdom; and

2Human Performance Laboratory, Directorate of Sport, Exercise and Physiotherapy, University of Salford, Salford, United Kingdom

Address correspondence to Paul Comfort,

Copyright © 2016 by the National Strength & Conditioning Association.