A comparative analysis of kicking strategies in elite Rugby Union and Rugby League
University of Wales Institute Cardiff
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The objective of this analysis was to determine whether selected kicking performance indicators (PIs) revealed any convergence in playing trends or game strategies between rugby union and rugby league. The continual interchange of players and coaches between the two codes suggest that universal skills are apparent. A paucity in empirical research comparing the codes highlighted a potential niche to which original research could be contributed. A specifically designed hand notation template was employed to record different types of attacking and defensive kicks, their frequency and success from a random selection of elite matches from rugby union (n=15) and league (n=15). Using percentage error calculations, intra-observer reliability was confirmed, with all PIs meeting the pre-defined acceptance boundary (<5% for attacking kicks, <15% overall). A Shapiro-Wilk test deemed the data to be non-parametric, therefore a Mann Whitney test was utilised to assess any significant differences. The results suggested that overall, kicking frequencies between the codes are significantly different (U=37.50, p<0.01) with a mean of 10 more kicks per match in rugby union. More specifically, the difference in weighting of the attacking/defensive kicks revealed a higher prevalence of attacking kicks in rugby league – 60/40% compared to union 37/63%. A comparison of different types of kick, such as the drop goal, clearance kick and chip kick showed no significant difference in frequency between the codes (p>0.05), ultimately underlining them as common strategies. Conversely, there were more grubber kicks in rugby league (U=20.50, p<0.001) and clearance kicks to touch in union (U=.000, p<0.001), supporting the notion that union is a territorial based game, as opposed to the possession orientate alternative utilised in league. This investigation concluded that although some convergence between the two codes exists, the extent and success to which kicking techniques can be transferred are mainly governed by specific strategies, unique to each code.
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