You only need to watch TV coverage of a rugby match from ten or so years ago to realise that today’s rugby players are very different to their predecessors.
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The modern game is fast and furious, and professional rugby players have changed to meet the demands of the game.
In the past, it was all about either size or speed. The front row was big, and the backs were smaller and quicker. And size was more about weight than it was muscle mass or fitness. Today, even the props are very fit. Yes, they might still be bigger and slower than their team members, but that bulk isn’t the result of endless pints and pies and a sky-high Body Mass Index (BMI): it’s due to a protein-rich diet and lots of muscle. And players who are traditionally lighter and faster are fitter and stronger, and on average taller, than ever too.
Surprisingly, perhaps, the average weight of a player has gone up in the last 20 years by around two stone, but this is thanks to an increase in muscle mass.
Professionalisation of the Sport
Prior to the game turning professional in 1995, players relied on their ‘day jobs’ for income, and rugby was something they did on the side. After the summer of 1995, players were paid to play rugby, giving them much more time to concentrate on fitness and training. All professional clubs will have nutritionists or dieticians on the payroll, as well as gym instructors and other fitness experts. Specific and targeted training has been developed, and this has filtered down to the amateur game.
Improvements Across the World of Sport
Amateur teams across the board are benefiting from this, and coaches are able to access sport-specific training using resources whether it’s access to a drill library for rugby or a hockey drill video for schools.
In fact, the changes in rugby reflect a shift in most sports today, from hockey to gymnastics, where every competitive advantage counts, whether that involves new training drills, diet plans or recovery techniques. And the internet has had a huge impact on the world of sport, as it’s opened up a world of knowledge to everyone, no matter where they are in the world. This means that standards are rising everywhere.