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Table 2 Summary of age-grade rugby GPS studies

From: The Use of Global Positioning and Accelerometer Systems in Age-Grade and Senior Rugby Union: A Systematic Review

Study Participants Device details Method Results
Carling et al. [42] 63 rugby union U20 international players from two teams. STATSport Viper Pod Data were collected from GPS tracking devices (10 Hz) during an U20 tournament. Players played 5 matches over 19 days. Total and peak 5-min high-metabolic load distances were likely-to-very likely moderately higher in the final match compared to matches 1 and 2 in back and forward players.
Cunningham et al. [35] 40 rugby union U20 international players. STATSport Viper Pod Data were collected from GPS tracking devices (10 Hz) over 15 international tournament matches. Data on distances, velocities, accelerations, decelerations, high-metabolic load (HML) distance and efforts, and number of sprints were collected. Analysis revealed sig. differences between forwards and backs. Backs scored higher on all variables measured with the exception of number of moderate accelerations (no sig differences).
Cunningham et al. [36] 43 rugby union U20 international players and 27 elite professional senior players from an international performance squad. STATSport Viper Pod Data were collected from a GPS tracking device (10 Hz) over 15 (U20) and 8 (senior) international tournament matches,
Distance relative to playing time, HSR, number of sprints relative to playing time, mod, high and severe intensity accelerations and decelerations, high-metabolic load distance (HML) and high-metabolic load efforts were calculated.
Sig. differences between U20 and senior teams in both the forwards and backs.
In the forwards seniors covered greater HML distance (p = 0.01) and severe decelerations (p = 0.05) in comparison to the U20s. However, they performed less relative HSR (p < 0.01), high accelerations (p < 0.01) and sprints·min−1 (p < 0.01). Senior backs covered a greater relative distance greater HML distance, HML efforts and heavy decelerations (all p < 0.01). U20 backs performed more relative HSR and sprints·min−1 (all p <  0.01).
Flanagan et al. [44] 42 rugby union U20 international players across two teams. STATSport Viper Pod Data were collected from GPS tracking devices (10 Hz) during 10 matches at the 2015 World Rugby U20 Championship. Distance total (m), relative distance (m.min−1), high-speed running, number of sprints and number of accelerations were recorded. Mean running volumes ranged from 3994 to 6209 m with mean relative distances ranging from 56 to 71 m.min−1. During a 5-min maximal intensity period mean relative distance ranged from 77 to 100 m.min−1 with 16.6–31.9% of the distance covered at high-metabolic load.
Hartwig et al. [24] 118 rugby union players aged between 14 and 18 years. GPSports SPI10 Data were collected via GPS (1 Hz) and video tracking to compare and contrast players training sessions with “typical match” demands. The data were collected during 2 rugby field training sessions and during one competitive match per week between 2003 and 2008 from 10 different teams representing 3 level of junior rugby. Sprint data and total time spent in different movement categories were the variables of interest. Compared with training matches resulted in more time spent jogging (14 vs 8%), striding (3.2 vs 1.3%) and sprinting (1.3 vs 0.1%) (p < 0.001). Players were also found to cover greater distances (4000 ± 500 vs 2710 ± 770 m and performed more sprints (21.8 vs 1) during games compared to training (p < 0.001).
Lacome et al. [54] 24 rugby union U20 international players. Digital Simulation Sensoreverywhere V2 Data were collected over the course of the 2016 U20 World Championship with GPS tracking devices (16 Hz). Players were divided into a high and a low exposure group. Total distance (m) and high-speed distance (m) were measured during training and matches High-speed running was similar between both groups across the tournament. In the high exposure group high-speed running changed across the 5 successive matches. There was a very likely moderate difference in cumulated total distance covered by the high exposure group compared to the low exposure group.
Phibbs et al. [45] 170 adolescent rugby union players (U16 and U18). Catapult Optimeye S5 Data were collected from GPS tracking devices (10 Hz) was used to calculate mean session training loads from 10 teams across 3 playing standards (school, club and academy) over the course of 1 in- season training week. Under 18 players covered the highest total distance (4176 ± 433 m), run the furthest at high speed (1270 ± 288 m) and had the highest PlayerLoad (424 ± 56 AU). School level players had the lowest session loads in both age categories. Training loads and intensities increased with age and playing standard.
Phibbs et al. [57] 20 adolescent academy rugby union players. Catapult Optimeye S5 Data were collected from GPS tracking devices (10 Hz) for each subject over a 10-week in-season period. Total distance (m), LSA distance (m), HRS distance (m), VHSR distance (m) and PlayerLoad (AU) and PlayerLoadSlow (AU) was recorded. Mean weekly training distance was 11628 ± 3445 m and PlayerLoad was 1124 ± 330 AU. Mean total distance (13063 ± 3933 m vs 10195 ± 2242 m) and Playerload (1246 ± 345 vs 1002 ± 279 AU) were both likely greater for backs compared to forwards (moderate effect size).
Phibbs et al. [56] 61 adolescent schoolboy and academy rugby union players. Catapult Optimeye S5 Data were collected from GPS tracking devices (10 Hz) during training (15 training sessions) and competitive matches (8 matches). Total distance (m), relative distance (m.min−1), PlayerLoad, MSS, relative MSS, LSA distance (m), relative LSA (m.min−1), HRS distance (m), relative HSR distance (m.min−1), VHSR distance (m) and relative VSHR (m.min−1) was recorded. For the schoolboy forwards group, total PL and LSA were both likely greater in matches than training. In the schoolboy backs group, total distance MSS, LSA, HSR and relative VHSR were all likely greater in matches than training.
For the academy forwards group relative PL and relative LSA were both likely greater in matches than training. In the academy backs group however, training demands were similar to match demands.
Read et al. [14] 112 rugby union representative players (U16, U18, U20). Catapult Optimeye S5 Data were collected from GPS tracking devices (10 Hz) from 2 matches from each team (6 matches in total). Relative distance, LSR m.min−1, HRS m.min−1, PL m.min−1 and PLslow m.min−1 were reported. Backs had a greater relative distance (except U16s) and a greater high-speed running distance per minute than forwards with these magnitudes becoming larger with age.
PlayerLoad per minute and PlayerLoad slow per minute was greater for forwards than backs at all age groups.
Read et al. [37] 96 rugby union players (U16, U18 and university). Catapult Optimeye S5 Data were collected from GPS tracking devices (10 Hz) during six matches. Distance total (m), relative distance (m.min−1), maximum sprint speed (MSS), and total walking, jogging, striding and sprinting distances were reported. PL.min−1 was also reported. U16 total distance and striding was likely higher for forwards than backs, at U18 level there were no clear differences and at university level this relationship was reversed. In all age groups sprint distance was likely greater for backs than forwards. Forwards had greater physical demands than backs at all age groups. Player demands were similar for forwards across age groups, and greater for back as age increased.
Read et al. [61] 202 rugby union players across 7 regional academies in England. Catapult Optimeye S5 Data were collected from GPS tracking devices (10 Hz) across 24 matches from the U18 annual competitive league fixtures across three consecutive seasons. All matches were 35 min per half. Instantaneous speed was used to calculate relative distance using 0.1 s rolling mean for different times durations (15 and 30 s and 1, 2, 2.5, 3, 4, 5 and 10 min). Running intensities for consecutive durations decreased as time increased. Running intensity was lower in the forwards than backs during all durations (ES = − 0.74 ± 0.21 to − 1.19 ± 0.21). Running intensity for the second row and back row positions was greater than the front row player at all durations (− 0.58 ± 0.38 to − 1.18 ± 0.29). Running intensity for scrum halves was greater (0.46 ± 0.43 to 0.86 ± 0.39) than inside and outside backs for all durations apart from 15 and 30 s.
Read et al. [60] 59 rugby union academy players from England. Catapult Optimeye S5 Data were collected from GPS tracking devices (10 Hz) over two seasons totalling 12 matches. PL (PL·min−1) and relative distance (m.min−1), were synchronised with the timings of attack, defence and ball out of play time for analysis. Relative distance in attacking phases (112.2 vs 114.6 m.min−1) was similar between forwards and backs. But greater in forwards during defensive plays (114.5 vs 109.0 m.min−1) and greater in backs during ball out of play.
Read et al. [59] 66 rugby union U18 academy and schoolboy players. Catapult Optimeye S5 Data were collected from GPS tracking devices (10 Hz) during matches (6 academy and 6 schoolboy matches). Maximum sprint speed (MSS), and total walking, jogging, striding and sprinting distances were reported. PLslow.min−1 was also reported. Academy forwards and backs almost certainly and very likely covered greater total distance than the schoolboys. Academy backs were very likely to accumulate greater PLslow and academy forwards a likely greater sprinting distance than the schoolboys in their respective positions. The MSS, total, walking and sprinting distances were greater in backs (likely-almost certainly), forwards accumulated greater PLslow (almost certainly) and jogging distances (very likely).
Roe et al. [38] 14 rugby union academy players. Catapult Optimeye S5 Markers of fatigue were calculated before and after a competitive academy match. Locomotor demands were collected from a GPS tracking device (10 Hz). Players covered an average of 4691 ± 878 m during the match. The average relative distance covered was 74 ± 6 m.min−1. Of the total distance 1771 ± 436 m was covered walking/standing, 2215 ± 461 m jogging, 663 ± 238 m striding and 41 ± 40 m sprinting.
Roe et al. [49] 20 rugby union academy players. Catapult Optimeye S5 External training load was assessed over a 2-week period using GPS tracking devices (10 Hz) during both contact and non-contact sessions. Metrics recorded were total distance (m), relative distance (m.min−1) and PlayerLoad slow. Having no contact in the session almost certainly increased running intensity (19.9 ± 5%) and distance (27.5 ± 5.3%).
Venter et al. [25] 17 semi-professional rugby union U19 players. GPSports SPI Pro Data were collected from GPS tracking devices (10 Hz) over 5 games during the in-season period. Total distance (m), speed zones and impacts were recorded. Players covered an average of 4469.9 ± 292.5 m during the games. Players spent 72.32 ± 4.77% of the game either standing or walking. Back row forwards had the highest total amount of impacts during the game (683.4 ± 295.0) while the inside backs had the highest amount of severe impacts over 10 g power game (12.16 ± 3.18)