Leeds Beckett University
UnderstandingSmallsidedGamePracticeInProfessionalRugbyUnion-ZANIN.pdf (4.44 MB)

Understanding small-sided game practice in professional rugby union

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posted on 2023-08-08, 08:37 authored by Marco ZaninMarco Zanin
The core aim of this thesis was to investigate whether small-sided game (SSG) training may provide a consistent stimulus to elicit tactical, technical, and physical characteristics in professional rugby union players. Initially, a systematic review of the literature on rugby football codes SSG demonstrated that limited research was available in rugby union SSG (5 out of 20 papers included, 25%), with the majority of research papers investigating the physical characteristics, limited studies evaluating the technical characteristics, and no study assessing the tactical characteristics of the SSG. Successively, an observational study was conducted to investigate the consistency of tactical behaviour (i.e., attacking shape), and technical and physical characteristics across multiple bouts of a specific rugby union SSG. Findings indicated that consistency of tactical behaviour, and technical and physical characteristics can be achieved for the majority of the variables investigated over multiple SSG bouts. This represents the first study analysing tactical behaviours during rugby union SSG. A regression study was then implemented to identify which external load variables were more closely related to internal load across multiple rugby union SSG designs. The results demonstrated that the association between internal and external load variables changed based on the specific design of the SSG, with the frequency of players getting down to and up from the ground and the frequency and intensity of accelerations and decelerations showing the strongest effect on internal load. An additional observational study was implemented to determine the differences in physical and technical characteristics across multiple rugby union SSG designs and to quantify the variability of these characteristics during pre-season. Findings suggested that position specific SSG (e.g., only backs) may be implemented to expose players to greater physical and technical characteristics for the majority of the variables investigated. Furthermore, variability in physical and technical characteristics was identified across multiple training days. In summary, findings demonstrated that consistency can be achieved across SSG bouts, and limited variability was identified over multiple training sessions.


Qualification name

  • PhD


Roe, Gregory ; Darrall-Jones, Joshua

Awarding Institution

Leeds Beckett University

Completion Date


Qualification level

  • Doctoral


  • eng


Leeds Beckett University

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