Monitoring Player Workload at the World Cup 2019; Japan

Last November USA Rugby’s Eagles suffered a 57-14 defeat against Ireland in Dublin, and it was no shock since Ireland is ranked No.1 in the Rugby World Cup. While USA is lagging on the 13th position. But the Eagles’ sports science team, led by coach Huw Bevan put the available technology to good use.

The First Steps Ahead

He utilized the GPS data collected from each player’s STAT sports device and the match video to leverage the loss as a lesson.

The analysis became the benchmark for the Eagles. As the understood the physical demands of playing against an elite team.

Load Passport

The team’s monitoring also marks part of its compliance with new world Rugby guidelines. Each player takes the field over a month and a half as they are a carefully surveilled by their team under the World Rugby Council’s “load passport” rule, which aims to insure the work load on each player is carefully managed “It’s elite sport and you have to push those boundaries, but the workload monitoring is a good tool in terms of helping you do that,” says Bevan, who spent the previous two decades working with rugby and cricket teams in the United Kingdom. “The GPS information is crucial to that. Every minute of every session is monitored and planned initially with a target distance and target intensity and target duration in mind.”

The load passport stems from a study commissioned by World Rugby Union. Led by its chief medical officer, Dr. Martin Raftery. The research was published by the British Journal of Sports Medicine in 2017. Which states that elite Rugby player’s workload stem from training rather than competing.

The new bylaw was passed was passed by the World Rugby Commission in Nov 2018. A month later during a survey of elite Rugby players, it was discovered that their chief concerns are 45% players reported that they had “felt pursued by team coaches or staff to train or play when not fully fit.”

The Implementation

The World Rugby load passport does not particularly require the use of wearable technology, but it is recommended, and several sports teams and elite clubs already use wearables. The primary guidelines are to consider the frequency, intensity, time and type of training sessions to keep track of workload.

Japan 2019: World Cup

In an email to Sport Techie from Japan, Raftery emphasizes that the objective of the passport program is to develop awareness of load.

The rugby match runs for 80 minutes and an average player’s running demand is around 120 meters per minute. “Knowing what each player does or each position is required to do in a game, we can then ensure that our training elicits those sorts of intensities and demands in training.”

Wales, which is currently ranked No.5 but had been No.1, has been a pioneer in player load management. The competing loyalties of club and country are tricky to reconcile with players often one way or the other. The Welsh Rugby team is about to play its first game in the World Cup against Georgia in Toyota on Monday. But in twelve months Wales has participated in twelve International Games many which overlapped with domestic seasons.

An important question in terms of preparation for Japan is whether the style of play and physical exertion will be any different in the World Cup compared to any other International competition.