The Australian Rugby National Safety Committee recently expressed the need to strengthen the evidence to guide policy and guidelines on mismatches in physical development in adolescent Rugby, specifically around the variation in physical development of players within Age Grade Rugby.
With the Introduction of the Australian Rugby Participation Policy stating:
All endeavours must be made for Rugby participants with broadly compatible physical development in conjunction with ability and/or experience to play with and against each other.
Australian Catholic University’s recent research with Australian Rugby Union on size differences* was based on OFF-FIELD testing. Existing age grade policies in Australia require a stronger evidence-base that includes ON-FIELD match performances.
Thus, this project addresses the research questions:
• What is the range of physical qualities and match performance in junior Rugby player?
• How predictive of on-field match performances are physical qualities?
• How much does match performance change when players are re-graded in line with the Age Dispensation Procedure?
• To test the application of height and weight criteria as a trigger to have players assessed by an approved coach in an age grade Rugby competition.
• To assess the impact on the competition when players participate in their appropriately assessed grade.
Specifically, the project involves:
(i) gathering the evidence on the physical qualities (weight, height, fitness, power, speed) of selected teams of Rugby players in Under 13 years competitions prior to the start of competition;
(ii) all players in selected teams following regular age grading in the first four games in the first half of the season where videotaping and GPS devices will assist in monitoring match distances, speeds and skills
(iii) after four matches, selected, trained and experienced Level 2 coaches, reviewing all the evidence and observing players during games to determine which players should be invited to play up or down an age-based grade in line with the Age Dispensation Procedure to either the Under 12, Under 14 or Under 15 competitions;
(iv) certain players moving to a different Age Grade after round 7 (when teams are usually re-graded) and being monitored under new age graded conditions for an additional four matches: and
(v) the performance of the Under 13 teams where players re-graded to a different age grade played in the initial four rounds being reviewed during four matches following the re-grading.
The outcomes of the research project will provide evidence to assist Australian Rugby Union and our State Unions further develop policy, procedure, training and education to:
· Continue to ensure Rugby is safe, inclusive and fair;
· Provide a framework to improve the playing experience for all age grade Rugby players; and
· Address the challenges of significant differences in physical development in “outlier” players in age grade Rugby that is player focused and examines the physical development of individual players in conjunction with their ability and / or experience.
Testing and Analysis Protocol