Physical Development

Physical Development

The physical development of rugby players is a key aspect of player performance. Over the last decade our research has investigated and evaluated the influence of physical qualities on the performance and development of rugby players. This work has included extensive investigation into fitness testing, the qualities of players, strength and conditioning training and how we analyse and visualise data to help inform decision making. Our current work involves implementing national fitness testing batteries with both the Rugby Football League and the Rugby Football Union with data visualisation platforms designed for both codes.

Our partners

our impact

Following our physical performance research, the RFL and RFU have implemented national fitness testing batteries within their player development programmes across all players aged 14-20 years. Since 2016, over 3,000 rugby players have been fitness tested and have gained feedback on their physical performance compared against national standards. The RFL have designed and disseminated a physical profiling data visualisation tool (with advanced analysis) for use by all professional clubs. The implementation of national fitness testing and reporting has benefitted clubs, coaches and players by providing objective data for player evaluations and allowing the development of training programmes to allow players to improve their performances for enhancing the long-term career development of players within the sports.

The national fitness testing that has been implemented across all academies has been vital to understand the physical development of players and provide informed data to provide feedback, goal setting and programmes for all players. This work is key within the RFU academies but also my role within England for supporting players in their player development journey. Over 2,000 players have been tested which gives us a good summary of most academy players within the country.

Jon Pendlebury England Under 18s Head Coach, Rugby Football Union

Key Outputs


  • Owen C, Till K, Weakley J, & Jones B. (2020) Testing methods and physical qualities of male age grade rugby union players: a systematic review, PLoS One, 15(6): e0233796. Accepted 13th May 2020.
  • Till K, Weakley J, Read D, Phibbs, P, Darrall-Jones J, Roe G, Chantler S, Mellalieu S, Hislop M, Stokes K, Rock A, and Jones B. (in press) Applied Sport Science for Male Age-Grade Rugby Union in England. Sports Medicine, 6, 14 – Open, 10th January 2020
  • Till K, Morris R, Emmonds S, Jones B, & Cobley S. (2018) Enhancing the evaluation and interpretation of fitness testing data within youth athletes. Strength Cond J, 40(5), 24-33.
  • Till, K., Scantlebury, S., & Jones, B. (2017) Anthropometric and physical qualities of elite male youth rugby league players. Sports Medicine. 47(11), 2171-2186. Doi: 10.1007/s40279-017-0745-8
  • Till, K. & Jones, B. (2015) Fitness Testing for Rugby. Chapter 2. In Till, K. & Jones, B. (Eds.) The Science of Sport: Rugby. Crowood Press.
  • Darrall-Jones, J., Jones, B. & Till, K. (2015) Anthropometric and Physical Profiles of English Academy Rugby Union Players. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 29(8), 2086-96
  • RFL Profiling Tool