Long-term training-induced changes in sprinting speed and sprint momentum in elite rugby union players
Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins
Faculty of Health, Engineering and Science
Centre for Exercise and Sports Science Research
Speed and sprint momentum are considered to be important physical qualities for rugby. The purpose of the study was to understand the development of these qualities in senior and junior international rugby players. In part 1 of the study, a group of senior (n = 38) and junior (n = 31) players were tested for speed over 40 m. Initial sprint velocity (ISV), maximal sprint velocity (MSV), initial sprint momentum (ISM), and maximal sprint momentum (MSM) were calculated using 10-m splits. In part 2 of the study, a group of junior (n = 12) and senior (n = 15) players were tracked over a 2-year period for body mass, ISV, MSV, ISM, and MSM. In part 1, senior backs and forwards were not found to have significantly greater ISV and MSV than junior players but were found to have greater ISM and MSM. Forwards were found to have significantly greater ISM and MSM than backs but significantly lower ISV and MSV than backs. In part 2, no significant differences were found over the 2 years between senior and junior players, but greater effect sizes for juniors were generally found when compared with seniors for improvements in ISV (d = 0.73 vs. 0.79), MSV (d = 1.09 vs. 0.68), ISM (d = 0.96 vs. 0.54), and MSM (d = 1.15 vs. 0.50). Sprint momentum is a key discriminator between senior and junior players, and large changes can be made by junior players as they transition into senior rugby. Speed appears to peak for players in their early 20s but sprint momentum appears to be more trainable.