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The Importance Of Speed In Rugby

An England Under 18 player takes part in training

Photo: Getty Images

Speed is important to gain an advantage over the opponents in all aspects of the game, e.g. chasing kicks, supporting line breaks and chasing down opponents. The aspect of speed that is most important in rugby is acceleration, as for the most part players run short distances. Acceleration can be improved by improving leg strength and power.

Speed for rugby is not the same as for sprinting. The shortest outdoor distance a track athlete sprints is 100m. Unless a rugby player intercepts the ball on his own line this distance is never run in a game of rugby. A player also rarely runs in a straight line. As a result, their styles of running and training methods differ.

How Training Improves Speed

The ideal track sprinting technique is one that moves the athlete over 100m in a straight line in as short a time as possible – a different set of requirements to the rugby player. The ideal rugby sprinting technique is reflected in the player who has excellent acceleration, reaches top speed early, has outstanding balance and agility, shields himself from injury during impact, and is not affected unduly by carrying a ball.

According to Frank Dick's Sports Training Principles, there are seven areas where training will enhance speed. These are:

  • The ability to react to a signal
  • The capacity to accelerate
  • The capacity to rapidly adjust balance to perform one skill after another
  • The achievement of maximum speed
  • The maintenance of maximum speed
  • The capacity to limit endurance factors on speed
  • The capacity to choose options quickly
 

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