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The Consequences of the Introduction of Professional Playing Status on Game Action Variables in International Northern Hemisphere Rugby Union Football

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The aims of this study were to examine the consequences of the introduction of professional playing status in 1995 on game variables in international rugby union football, and secondly to provide a longitudinal game map for use in future research.

Twelve 'Five Nations' Championship games between 1988 and 1995 (pre-professional Era), sub-divided into two Periods (1988-92 and 1995-97) and twelve 'Five' and 'Six Nations' Championship games between 1997 and 2002 (professional Era), sub-divided into two Periods (1997-99 and 2000-02) were analysed using a sequential data gathering hand notation system. Initial intra- observer reliability analysis established that the level of observer agreement exceeded 97% for all game variables. Normalised profiles were also constructed for each variable. These profiles demonstrated that the data for all variables reached stables means within 6 full games. Frequency data and frequency data per unit time were assessed with the Mann-Whitney U statistic to examine Era differences and the Kruskal Wallis H tests to identify Period differences. Where Period differences were indicated, the Mann-Whitney U test was used as the appropriate post-hoc procedure. Analysis identified significant increases (P < 0.005) in the frequency of rucks, dummy/scrum half passes, open play passes and total passes, and significant decreases (P < 0.005) in the frequency of lineouts, kicks out of play, total game kicks, mauls, set possessions and activity possessions from the pre- to the professional era. No significant difference was identified for either scrums or kicks in play frequencies. Analysis of these variables normalised to ball in play time resulted in significant increases (P < 0.005 ) in the frequency of dummy/scrum half passes, rucks, lineouts, and a significant decrease (P < 0.005) in the frequency of mauls, scrums, total game kicks, kicks out of play, kicks in play, and set possessions across the Eras. Significant (P < 0.005) Period main effects were identified for the frequency of lineouts, kicks out of play, scrums, (trend decreasing across Periods) total game passes, passes from the dummy/scrum half position, rucks, activities/phases, and set possession (P = 0.01) and total game kicks (P = 0.006) (trend increasing across Periods). Analyses of these variables normalised to ball in play time resulted a significant (P < 0.05) Period main effects being identified for total game kicks, kicks out of play, kicks in play, mauls, scrums, set possessions,(trend decreasing across Periods) passes from the dummy/scrum half position (trend increasing across Periods) and offloads (no identifiable trend across Periods). It was concluded that the introduction of professional playing status in rugby union had had a marked effect on game action variables and, as a consequence the playing pattern of the game is significantly different in the professional Era and Periods compared to the pre-professional Era and Periods.
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Keywords: NORMATIVE PROFILES; NOTATIONAL ANALYSIS; PROFESSIONALISM; RELIABILITY; RUGBY UNION

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2005-11-01

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