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Universities reveal the power of science in top-flight rugby

09 September 2013

Lyndsey Boardman

Rugby League elite gather at UCLan


 

As the start of Rugby League World Cup 2013 (RLWC2013) draws closer the big hitters of the sport have come together at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) to see how far they can push performance levels.

Jon Wilkin from St Helen RLFC and the ‎Director of Performance and Coaching at the Rugby Football League, Jon Roberts, joined over 100 sport scientists, coaches, medical staff, educators and players from both codes of rugby in Preston for the UK’s first Rugby League Research Symposium.

Sports science experts shared research on the talent identification in rugby league, how Global Positioning System (GPS) can identify the physical demands placed on a player, the recovery processes needed in the game and the nutrition essential for optimum performance.

England international Jon Wilkin who has played for St Helens since 2002 opened the conference. He said: “There are so many complex components in rugby and we’re at a stage now where every aspect of play is analysed. For me it’s about tailoring sports science analysis to the individual to help them set specific goals and also educate the players so they understand where they need to improve.”

“Sports science plays a massive part in the national set up from youth to the senior squad and aligning academic research with the profession is crucial if we are going to push boundaries, inform sports development and enhance performance.”

Speaking at the event Jon Roberts commented: “We’re only weeks away from the Rugby League Word Cup with England taking on Australia in the first game. Sports science plays a massive part in the national set up from youth to the senior squad and aligning academic research with the profession is crucial if we are going to push boundaries, inform sports development and enhance performance.”

The symposium, which attracted attendees from across the country, is part of a collaborative project between UCLan, the University of Chester, Liverpool John Moores University and Leeds Metropolitan University.

Dr Steve Atkins, an exercise science expert at UCLan and sport science advisor to Wigan Warriors RLFC, said: “This is the first time we’ve brought academic research and professional clubs together to use cutting edge sports science to optimise the performance of elite rugby players.’’

“It’s allowed us to not only showcase what science can do to representatives from several Super League clubs, but we’ve also attracted people from Premiership rugby union clubs and professional football clubs to the event.”

“It’s allowed us to not only showcase what science can do to representatives from several Super League clubs, but we’ve also attracted people from Premiership rugby union clubs and professional football clubs to the event.”

UCLan has a long and successful relationship with Rugby League and has an on-going sponsorship deal with Super League giants Wigan Warriors. The deal sees the Warriors benefit from fitness tests, video analysis support from UCLan and a number of University degree places for its accelerate squad players and staff.

The University’s UCLan Sports Arena will host the Irish squad ahead of the RLWC2013. The University beat off tough competition to be one of only two universities chosen as a host venue for the 14 nation tournament that will be held in England and Wales this October.

Pictured L-R top row: Jon Wilkin, St Helens RLFC and Chair of Super League Players Association (1eague3), Dr Graeme Close, Liverpool John Moores University and Head of Sports Nutrition, Munster Rugby, Dr Craig Twist, University of Chester and sports science advisor to St Helens RLFC and England Touch Rugby.

L-R bottom row: Director of Performance and Coaching at the Rugby Football League Jon Roberts, Dr Kevin Till, Leeds Metropolitan University and strength and conditioning coach with Bradford Bulls RLFC and Dr Steve Atkins, UCLan and sport science advisor to Wigan Warriors RLFC.