The Endurance Needed for Rugby Union Players

The beauty of rugby union being taught in schools is there is virtually a rugby position for everybody shape. This makes it all inclusive as a ball sport and a popular game to be played.

Richie McCaw constantly worked on his endurance levels

Once rugby Union entered the professional ranks some body shapes did not fit into the new era. As teams became fitter there was a natural change in certain positions. The front row forward was always a body shape that was as wide as it was stall and the presence of a gut was not frowned upon. The ability to either stop your own scrum from moving, or push the opposition scrum backwards was the main priority of the position. These were men of great strength who had high levels of anaerobic fitness.

Professionalism entering rugby union has set the player fitness levels soaring in every position. The front row forward is expected to get himself around the pitch. The new look front row forward is now a slimmed down version of the old one. This has come about as the excessive weight has dropped off as intensive sessions have worked on the forward’s aerobic levels of fitness. Also in the forwards are the back-row players who are undoubtedly the fittest players on the pitch chasing the ball for the whole game. Their game is made up of bursts of short sprints in attempt to be the first to arrive where the ball is. Once at the destination great levels of strength are needed to try and win the ball. It doesn’t matter whether the team are attacking or defending the back-row forwards will always be at the centre of the action.

Pierre Spies the shape of the modern rugby forward

One of the most famous back row forwards was the New Zealander Richie McCaw. He was renowned for his work rate. It was reported that unless he was able to run 1.5 miles in less than 9 minutes 30 seconds he had to get himself fitter. If this wasn’t enough he would be completing a fierce weekly gym programme to work on his anaerobic strength. The modern-day rugby player combines training on the field with training in the gym. A back will run on average 6.5kms in a match where as a forward will only run 6km. However, a forward needs vast energy of strength to compete in the contact situations.

Pierre Spies is a South African back row forward who is 6ft:4 tall and weighs 238 lbs. When he goes to the gym he can power clean 300lbs, dead lift 530lbs, bench press 360lbs and does pull ups with an extra 110 lbs tied to his body. This type of training regime was ideal for his extending his anaerobic capacity. The professional era has taken the sport forward in the last 20 years. Sides defend better and can attack with greater pace. The higher the standard of the match the faster the game will become with players making fewer and fewer mistakes. In these tightly contested matches decision making is vital. One bad decision, or one tired decision, from a player can lead to a defeat for a side.

All 15 players on the pitch are expected to cope with the physical needs of the sport and not let it affect their decision making. As the players have got fitter their body shapes have certainly changed to profiles that reflect a world class athlete, and the endurance levels of the players compares well with any other sport.

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