When testing the physical qualities of athletes to determine on-field playing potential, it’s important (and logical) that the assessments correspond to match play and sporting movements associated with the chosen sport. For example, it would likely be unnecessary to test aerobic capacity in American footballers given the highly anaerobic nature of the sport. Determining which tests provide the highest indication of actual game performance can assist in player selection for team rosters at combines. These tests would also serve as suitable parameters to frequently assess throughout the year to monitor the effectiveness of training.
Some new research out of Australia sheds some light on which physical testing parameters correlate with match performance in semi-professional rugby players (Gabbett and Seibold, 2013). The players were tested on the following strength and conditioning tests: 3RM bench press, 3RM weighted chin-up, 3RM squat; body mass max reps in bench press, vertical jump and the Yo-YoIRT level 1. Then, over the course of 5 games, GPS data was collected to compare to the physical test results. After controlling for player position, higher 3RM squat strength strongly correlated with total distance coverage during the competitions at both high and low speeds. 3RM squat strength was also strongly associated with repeated high-intensity sprints. Strong correlations were not found between match play and the other tested parameters. However, not surprisingly better performance in each of the physical tests was related to likelihood of selection for the team.
The results of this particular study demonstrate the importance of lower body strength for the sport of rugby. Though the other tests did not appear to predict match performance in this study, these are still general fitness qualities that can be used to determine appropriate training load and weight selection during training sessions. Furthermore, the protection against injury that training to improve such qualities provides should also not be forgotten. Needless to say, it appears that lower body strength development should certainly be a priority for athletes training for this sport
Gabbett, T. J., & Seibold, A. (2013). Relationship Between Tests of Physical Qualities, Team Selection, and Physical Match Performance in Semi-Professional Rugby League Players. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. Ahead of print.