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FEATURE – Test yourself against England’s fittest rugby players

07 November 2012

  • Calvin Morriss explains the rugby specific benefits of England's anaerobic fitness test
  • England standards for Exit, Performance and World Class explained

England’s Strength and Conditioning Team have been running the England Rugby Fitness Test for ten years and as England Senior National Fitness Coach Calvin Morriss explains it can be used right through the grassroots game to let players measure themselves against the elite.

According to Morriss, the seven-minute, anaerobic shuttle-run is specifically designed to challenge rugby players, reflecting the movements and intensity faced in a game. The scores are then benchmarked at three levels: Exit, Performance and World Class.

“The beauty of the test is that you just need a couple of tape measures, a stop watch and poles or cones,” said Morriss, who has been with the RFU since 2002.

England centre Manu Tuilagi in the gym with National Fitness Coach Calvin Morriss

Photo: Getty Images

“The best thing is that anyone can do it: get yourself a pitch, get the basic equipment and off you go, you can compare yourself to England players.

“You might get guys who are good at the [shuttle run-based] Yo-Yo test or the multistage bleep test, so they’re good at running, but add that upper body component and you see guys fall to bits. If they don’t, they might be good at rugby.”

Why the test is good for rugby fitness

There are variations in the test for forwards and backs, again to replicate their different demands in a game, but the general principle remains the same – making the muscles use lactic acid as a fuel.

With the wry smile of a fitness coach who knows what it feels like to have your muscles screaming for oxygen, Morriss explains how the test is designed to mimic the movements in game and targets the vital triceps.

Preparations for the England Rugby Fitness Test

Photo: RFU Archive

He said: “The down and ups off the floor are crucial, as soon as you add the upper body in it makes the whole movement a lot more fatiguing and obviously that is an important part of the game when you consider the contact element and the number of times the guys have to get up off the floor.

“Rugby is also about acceleration and deceleration, changing direction, and that is also incorporated into the test. For most of it the work/rest periods are about one-to-one and that’s also pretty similar to the game.

“Triceps produce more lactate than another muscle in the human body, so they’re used a lot every time you push yourself off the ground. Your legs have to try and use that lactate as a fuel so their workload increases because they’re producing lactate already themselves. What the upper body part does is makes the fitness task that much more difficult.”

England standards and how to run the test has details of how you can stage the England Rugby Fitness Test and see below the benchmark scores the England Strength and Conditioning Team use to measure Exit, Performance and World Class levels:

England Rugby Fitness Test Standards
Categories England Anaerobic Test (secs)
Props Hookers Locks Back Row Half-Backs Centres & Back 3
World Class 244 240 244 233 205 206
Performance 252 247 250 240 212 213
Exit 260 254 256 246 217 219