Applied physiology and match analysis of professional rugby league

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There is a limited amount of research on the match and training demands of rugby league players, particularly at the professional level. As a consequence, many of the testing procedures and training practices for professional players may not be specific to their competition demands. Therefore, the overall aim of this thesis was to gain a greater understanding of the current match demands and physical training regimes of professional rugby league. An additional aim was to develop a match-specific running test and to examine the efficacy of current training programs in professional rugby league. To achieve this, three separate studies were undertaken. Study 1 determined the reliability of a method for measuring time-motion analysis and examined the match demands of professional rugby league competition with regard to playing level and positional roles. In Study 2, a new team-sport running test was developed and the reliability of the physiological responses and physical performance to this test was determined. Study 3 examined the effects of five weeks of general preparation pre-season training on aerobic fitness and match-related sprint performance in elite rugby league forwards. The results show that differences do exist in relation to the physical and game-specific skill match demands, both between levels of competition and positional roles and that pre-season training is effective in increasing aerobic fitness and match-related sprint performance in professional rugby league forwards. Therefore, the differences identified between playing levels and positional roles within this thesis should be used when designing training programs for professional rugby league players. Additionally, it also appears that the specific rugby league testing protocol developed in this thesis can be reliably used to determine the effects of intervention on the match-related performance of professional rugby league players. Overall, this thesis entails valuable information and practical implications for sports scientists, coaches, conditioning specialists, talent scouts and other practitioners involved in the process of optimising performance in professional rugby league players.
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