Influence of field position and phase of play on the physical demands of match-play in professional rugby league forwards

J Sci Med Sport. 2014 Sep;17(5):556-61. doi: 10.1016/j.jsams.2013.08.002. Epub 2013 Aug 11.


Objectives: No study has investigated the influence of field position and phase of play on the physical demands of match-play in professional rugby league forwards. We investigated the physical demands placed on forwards in elite rugby league matches, with special reference to how these demands differed between attack and defence, and in different field positions.

Design: Cohort study.

Methods: Twenty-two rugby league players (26 ± 3 years) from the same professional club participated in this study. Global positioning system (GPS) analysis was completed during 23 matches. Video footage was synchronised with the GPS files and coded for the time spent in attack and defence, and in one of three different field positions (0-30 m, 31-70 m, 71-100 m).

Results: The physical demands of defence were consistently greater than attack. Moderate to large differences (ES=0.62-1.41) were found between defence and attack for distance covered (109 ± 16 m/min vs. 82 ± 12 m/min), low speed distance (104 ± 15 m/min vs. 78 ± 11 m/min), frequency of collisions (1.9 ± 0.7/min vs. 0.8 ± 0.3/min), and repeated high-intensity effort bouts (1 every 4.9 ± 5.1 min vs. 1 every 9.4 ± 6.1 min). The running demands and frequency of repeated high-intensity effort bouts were greater when defending in the opposition's 30 m zone (i.e. 71-100 m), with repeated high-intensity effort bouts also occurring more frequently when defending the team's own try-line and when attacking the opposition's try-line.

Conclusions: Specific training drills designed to replicate the attacking and defensive demands of different field positional zones are likely to be effective in preparing players for the most demanding activities that occur in professional rugby league match-play.

Keywords: Activity profiles; Repeated-effort; Team sports; Time-motion analysis; Training.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Competitive Behavior
  • Football / physiology*
  • Geographic Information Systems
  • Humans
  • Physical Endurance / physiology
  • Running / physiology*
  • Video Recording