Date of Submission

1-6-2017

Abstract

Due to its inclusion in the recent Olympic Games, women’s Rugby Sevens has experienced a marked increase in popularity. As a result of the sports’ emergent nature the player profile and performance demands of women’s Rugby Sevens remain poorly understood.

Rugby Sevens is a modified game of 15-a-side Rugby Union, played under similar laws but with fewer players per side and for less total game time. The sport is played in a tournament format with multiple games played in one day and across a 2 to 3-day period. Rugby Sevens is one of the few true contact sports played by females and is therefore unique in this regard.

A lack of research into the specific demands of the game and physical qualities of the players means that the majority of training decisions for the sport are based on research performed on males playing either Rugby Sevens or other Rugby codes. As sex differences specific to elite sport performance are known to exist, basing training prescriptions for females on male-specific research requires a number of assumptions to be made, which is unfair and potentially inappropriate to female athletes of any playing ability.

Based on the identified gaps in the literature, the purpose of this thesis was to first characterize 1) the physical qualities of players; and 2) the game demands of international women's Rugby Sevens; and 3) to then examine the interaction between these aspects of the game. To achieve these aims, it was important in Study 1 to first identify physical qualities that discriminated playing rank in women’s Rugby Sevens. Then, in Study 2, the characteristics of game activity and physiological demands of international women's Rugby Sevens were profiled and further investigated for how these demands changed in relation to key contextual factors such as: game half, game outcome, game margin, tournament day and playing position. Study 3 examined game demands in further detail specifically relating to the tactical phases of play; attack and defense. The interaction between tactical phase demands and game outcome was examined in order to profile successful style of play. Finally, Study 4 examined the relationships among physical qualities, game demands and contextual factors with the aim of identifying the physical qualities important for success at the international level.

The international game of women’s Rugby Sevens is a physically demanding game, requiring athletes to run at and maintain high-speeds while under significant physiological strain. High- speed running ability across games and relative to minutes played was positively related to a number of contextual factors including game half, game outcome, game margin and opponent rank. High-speed running demands were consistently greater in defense than attack. To support the demands of the international game, women’s Rugby Sevens players are required to have well- developed strength, aerobic fitness, speed and repeated-sprint abilities. The development of these physical qualities, which were also found to underpin in-game activity and physiological profiles, will help to support successful game outcomes.

Collectively, this thesis has provided a foundation and pragmatic level of knowledge on elite performance in women’s Rugby Sevens. Specifically, the development of physical qualities that support high-speed running ability may best prepare and maintain women for international-level competition in Rugby Sevens.

School/Institute

School of Exercise Science

Document Type

Thesis

Access Rights

Open Access

Extent

173 pages

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Faculty

Faculty of Health Sciences

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