Comparative Performance Analysis of Elite Rugby Union
Cardiff Metropolitan University
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Since the sport of rugby union becoming professional in 1995 whether it be domestic club or international level there has been a general perception that Southern Hemisphere teams have dominated the game, and there has always been the question of why? Results from the Rugby World Cup alone support this statement; moreover the inclusion of the annual Autumn International and Summer Tour results would endorse this. Previous literature surrounding rugby union has been vast and of superior quality, however there has been a deficient focus on the comparative analysis of the Northern and Southern Hemisphere, specifically the breakdown area. There is a significant correlation between the production of 'fast ball' and positive attacking play and it is greatly beneficial for an attacking team to produce 'quick ball' in order to break down a defence (Prim et al. 2006). In light of this, 'quick ball' was adopted as a vital performance indicator to comparatively analyse the breakdown area between Northern and Southern Hemisphere elite rugby union teams using footage from the 2012 Six Nations and Rugby Championship. Moreover, in order to analyse further differences between the Hemispheres additional performance indicators were created and also utilised from the aforementioned study by Prim et al. (2006). Numbers sent to attacking and defensive rucks were analysed along with phases of play, penalties gained and conceded, set plays, offloads and the origins and outcomes of possession. Following the coding of the fixtures using SportsCode Elite the data were then analysed and ranked using the Mann-Whitney U test within Microsoft Excel (2011) and IBM SPSS with the subsequent results being displayed in graphs and tables. The study identified a significant difference (P<0.05) between the number of occurrences the Northern and Southern Hemispheres send four or more attacking players to a breakdown. Further significant differences were discovered between the slow ruck ball produced, the number of times the left five metre channel was entered in attack, and the amount of times six and eight plus phases were reached. The research concluded that the Northern Hemisphere hamper the production of 'quick ball' at the breakdown by committing four or more players too often. Furthermore as 'quick ball' disrupts defensive organisation, the creation of 'slow ball' damages the opportunities available resulting in an increase in phases needing to be built. Equally the production of 'quick ball' allows for a positive outcome to be reached sooner and therefore fewer phases are required.
DEGREE OF BACHELOR OF SCIENCE (HONOURS) SPORT AND EXERCISE SCIENCE
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