Thursday, March 8, 2012

Rugby Giants

There is an interesting story on the BBC news website today about the way in which rugby players are getting bigger and bigger and the impact it is having on the tactics of the game.

If we combine those figures to give us the average weight and height of an England player, the trends are even clearer.

Someone who pulls on the white shirt in 2012 is on average almost three stone heavier and three inches taller than their predecessors of 50 years ago. They are well over a stone heavier and an inch taller than the XV which completed a second successive Grand Slam in 1992 and have 4.5lbs and almost an inch on the team of 2002 that went on to win the World Cup 18 months later.

1962: 85.7kg, 1.80 m
1972: 90.7kg, 1.85 m
1982: 89.9kg, 1.82 m
1992: 96.8kg, 1.85m
2002: 101.9kg, 1.86m
2012: 104kg, 1.88m

"Some of the collisions are like car crashes," he says. "When you get George North running flat out into a Manu Tuilagi, the forces involved are incredible. You get some horrific injuries from contact. You can hear half the impacts from the touchline."
After the last Lions tour, the squad's vastly experienced doctor James Robson - also Scotland's team doctor - warned that the size of players was forcing rugby towards a "watershed" moment.

"People are trying to run through the opposition, rather than around them," he said. "My hope is that coaches recognise that and we get a little bit smaller and faster and more skilful - that players win the space rather than the collision."

What the article doesn't explain is why they are now so big?  Is it jstu a general population who are bigger, are they better trained - they are certainly very well muscled now - better nutrition?


George Goodall said...

Very interesting. I remember touring Scotland and Wales in 1990 as a school boy from Canada. We were amazed at the great skill of our competition and the different style of play. It seemed like a more genteel game where you would wrap your opponent and they would pass the ball off. We were used to the "collision" sports of American/Canadian football and ice hockey so would complete every tackle, even if it was strategically useless. The player growth trend seems to indicate that rugby has evolved from a contact sport to a collision sport!

Chaotic Hammer said...

Wouldn't surprise me if the increase in size is similar to what has happened to professional American football. That is, an increasing demand for size and strength, leading to advanced strength and conditioning training, and specialized nutrition, designed to turn out larger players.

In the USA, it works its way down through the recruiting chain as well, so that the high schools, universities, and training leagues are deliberately geared to favor increasingly big and strong players. Many of them dream of playing professionally and start preparing at a young age.

That's just a guess though, from an admittedly uninformed American. I know next to nothing about rugby, but in the last few years I've managed to catch some matches on cable TV and found it quite enjoyable and exciting!

Anonymous said...

Synthetic human hormones were introduced to the market around the 1950s. In the spirit of the cold war, those were endorsed by most involved governments in order to "help" their athletes. From then on, research has led to alot of new substances that can be used to change body composition and performance beyond a naturally possible level.

Asclepius said...

George North is awesome but I'm not sure how long his body will survive such heavy impacts. Trends come and go and being big and fast is the be all and end all. I can foresee a time in the future when, regardless of size, some player in the backs will turn up with fast feet, soft hands and excellent agility, who can avoid contact. Then managers will once again emphasise skill over size.

Asclepius said...

Shane Williams is a good example of a small, fast and agile player!

breaker said...

nice posting

Anonymous said...

They're getting bigger because it's a "skill" that many coaches can find an easy use for - and of course, creatine is cheap.

But Asclepius is right: The toll this'll take will either demand changes in gear or tackle laws.

That said, it's not as though the Auckland style was common everywhere - teams are not using heavy wingers who can't shift; they are big AND fast.

Something's gotta give:
A season finished with most players in hospital with concussion, or a degree of unwieldyness that suddenly makes it easy to sidestep those giants.

boomgoesthedynamite said...

The same thing is happening in hockey. Players are bigger and faster, collisions are bigger and faster, injuries are bigger and more serious.

Anonymous said...

Here's the Scottish national team; the small one's aren't necessarily the old players :)

Mr White said...

Having played professional rugby in the UK for 12 years I would say training and nutrition have improved beyond all previous expectations. I was a player when the game officially went professional. Suddenly we were training twice a day monday to thursday, games on saturdays and recovery sessions on sundays. No comparison to how things were previously. So I would say it was a combination of training ammount, better training techniques, better nutrition and also a rather naive amateur environment previous to the professional era.