Physical Characteristics of Professional, Semi-Professional and Amateur Male Rugby Union Players
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Rugby union is a game that requires athletes to have well-developed anaerobic and aerobic capacity. However, it is unclear whether specific physical qualities can be used to distinguish between athletes of higher or lower competition levels. Therefore, the aim of this dissertation was to determine differences in anthropometry, strength, power, speed, and aerobic capacity between male rugby union athletes across professional, semi-professional, and amateur levels of competition. Chapter 2 presents a narrative review of the current physical characteristics of rugby union players across different competition levels and provides practical recommendations to help strengthen methodological approaches within the sport. The review presented findings which proposed a holistic approach to physical development at the lowest level of competition. The review also provided a greater understanding of the different physical characteristics between each level of competition. However, the literature highlights the need for future research to be grown to help continue to distinguish between the ranges of competition and the physical characteristics which could be required to reach the next level of competition. Consequently, chapter 3 compared a variety of physical characteristics between competition levels. Specifically, it was found that the larger differences were between the highest competition level (professionals) and either of the lower competition counterparts (semi-professional and amateur). Professionals produced significantly higher outputs in sections of strength, power, speed, and aerobic capacity markers when compared to the lowest competition amateur athlete. These results suggest that lower-level competition players should look to improve the wide variety of physical characteristics because of the nature of the sport. Furthermore, as players look to move through competition levels, speed characteristics should be monitored and trained closely as they differentiate between all levels of competition. Finally, training application should look to change towards power focused criteria when trying to reach the highest competition level. The information gathered is of value to researchers and strength and conditioning practitioners as it helps to distinguish physical characteristics required to reach a professional level.