Professional English rugby union clubs are using satellite technology in games this season to gather performance data as part of a PhD study into the physical demands of top flight rugby.
Players at eight Aviva Premiership clubs are already wearing Global Positioning System (GPS) monitors in matches following a dispensation relating to Law 4 granted by the International Rugby Board (IRB) this summer.
Data from nearly 100 games in which the 5hz GPS units are worn by players from Bath Rugby, Exeter Chiefs, Harlequins, Leicester Tigers, London Irish, London Wasps, Northampton Saints and Sale Sharks will be used to:
Investigate the use of GPS in monitoring training and game performance
Investigate the use of GPS in monitoring injury risk and player wellbeing
Establish positional demands in competitive match play
Identify key indicators of performance in elite rugby union
Identify markers for recovery in elite rugby union
The study – "The Demands of Playing and Training in Elite Rugby Union" – was commissioned by the RFU on the recommendation of the Professional Game Board. It is being undertaken by academics at the University of Chester and is part sponsored by the English Institute of Sport.
RFU Head of Sports Science Roy Headey said: "We already have the most sophisticated injury audit in world rugby, which quantifies the number and nature of rugby injuries and how many days out of training and playing those injuries cause.
"The GPS study will add precise information about the physical demands of training and playing that one way or another contribute to those injury statistics and takes place following extensive collaboration between the RFU, IRB, Premiership Rugby and the Rugby Players Association. It will be another big step in designing ways of reducing the injury burden at elite level.
"The same information will be invaluable in designing training programmes that exactly replicate the demands of the game, for example the distances run at different speeds, top speeds achieved and forces generated in impacts."