The pre- and post-pitch-entry physical and technical responses of rugby league interchange players according to starting status

Samuel Hills, Zachary Crang, Mark Russell, Rich Johnston

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    This study quantified the activities of interchange players during the 15 min before and 20 min after initial pitch-entry (INTentry) or re-entry (INTre−entry) for substitutes and starters, respectively, and identified relationships between pre- and post-pitch-entry responses. Fourteen semi-professional rugby league players wore Microelectromechanical Systems and were filmed throughout 10 matches in which they were interchanged (68 observations). Twelve physical and technical variables were analyzed for the pre-match warm-up, five, 10, and 15 min before INTentry or INTre−entry (physical variables only), and five min epochs following match-introduction. Linear mixed models indicated that during the 0–5 min following INTentry, physical and technical responses were typically greater (∼7.1% to 66.3%) than subsequent epochs while total (∼6.2%) and high-speed (37.1%) distance also exceeded the 0–5 min after INTre−entry (p < 0.05). Edge forwards reached higher peak speeds (11.4% to 11.7%) than hookers and middle forwards, but hookers completed more passes (87.4% to 90.5%). Pre-pitch-entry movements were positively associated with post-pitch-entry tackles (r = 0.43 to 0.49) and high-speed distance (r = 0.46), but negatively associated with total distance (r = −0.32 to −0.68). Within tolerable limits, increasing the activity performed during the ∼15 min before pitch-entry could benefit high-speed match-play performance indicators. Transient changes in post-pitch-entry physical and technical responses could reflect self-pacing strategies, contextual factors, or perceived preparedness. The apparent absence of progressive performance-limiting fatigue, characterized by a plateau in responses after the initial five min following INTentry or INTre−entry, may suggest a role for interchange players to provide a more sustained impact and thus achieve interchange objectives.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalInternational Journal of Sports Science and Coaching
    Publication statusPublished - 7 Apr 2022


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