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J Sports Sci. 2015;33(9):970-8. doi: 10.1080/02640414.2014.977937. Epub 2015 Jan 2.

Body composition characteristics of elite Australian rugby union athletes according to playing position and ethnicity.

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a School of Health and Sport Sciences , University of the Sunshine Coast , Maroochydore , Australia.


This study describes the body composition traits of modern-day elite rugby union athletes according to playing position and ethnicity. Thirty-seven international Australian rugby athletes of Caucasian and Polynesian descent undertook body composition assessment using dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry and surface anthropometry. Forwards were significantly taller, heavier and had a greater total fat mass and lean mass than backs. Backs displayed a higher percentage lean mass and lower sum of seven skinfolds and percentage fat mass. While no whole body composition differences were seen between ethnicities, significant regional differences were observed. In the periphery (arm and leg) regions, Polynesians had a greater proportion of fat mass (53.1% vs. 51.3%, P = 0.052, d = 0.5) and lean mass (49.7% vs. 48.6%, P = 0.040, d = 0.9), while in the trunk region a lower proportion of fat mass (37.2% vs. 39.5%, P = 0.019, d = 0.7) and lean mass (45.6% vs. 46.8%, P = 0.020, d = 1.1). Significant differences were also seen between Caucasian and Polynesian forwards in leg lean mass (31.4 kg vs. 35.9 kg, P = 0.014, d = 2.4) and periphery lean mass (43.8 kg vs. 49.6 kg, P = 0.022, d = 2.4). Elite Polynesian rugby athletes have different distribution patterns of fat mass and lean mass compared to Caucasians, which may influence their suitability for particular positions.


Caucasian; DXA; Polynesian; anthropometry; dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry

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