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Br J Sports Med. 1995 Dec;29(4):263-70.

The New Zealand rugby injury and performance project. III. Anthropometric and physical performance characteristics of players.

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University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand.

Erratum in

  • Br J Sports Med 1996 Sep;30(3):273.



To investigate the anthropometric and physical performance characteristics of New Zealand rugby players of different ages and both sexes.


356 rugby players (264 male, 92 female) took part in the study during a single season. Playing grade ranged from schoolboys and schoolgirls to senior men and women. Assessment of height, weight, neck circumference, and somatotype was performed before the competitive rugby season. A battery of six physical performance assessments was completed after the anthropometry. Analysis of variance was used to examine differences in these variables between field positions and grades.


Significant differences between forwards and backs on anthropometric and physical performance variables were apparent at all grades assessed. In terms of anthropometric characteristics, forwards of a given grade were generally taller, possessed greater body mass, and were more endomorphic and less ectomorphic than backs of the same grade. The backs tended to perform better on physical performance measures than forwards, being more aerobically fit, faster, more agile, and possessing a higher degree of muscular endurance. Differences in anthropometry and physical performance attributes were also apparent between players from the various grades. The players at higher levels were generally larger, and performed better on tests of physical performance than the players at lower levels. These differences were found in both sexes.


The greater body mass of the forwards allows them to obtain greater momentum than the backs when sprinting. The ability to obtain greater momentum is important in the body contact phases of the game. Forwards may compromise their aerobic fitness and speed to some extent in order to maintain a high body mass. The anthropometric and physical performance characteristics of players appear to reflect the demands placed on them by the sport.

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