Rugby & CrossFit: Further Reading

Here’s a Q&A with Coach Conor on some of the finer details from Sunday’s Post!

When you said “Wings are smaller” how small are we talking?
When I say smaller, an international prop might weigh in at 20 stone (280 pounds, 127kg) or more, and some wings at 17 stone (235 pounds, 106kg) or more. George North is the modern wing: very big, and very quick. A trend that started with Jonah Lomu in the mid 90s.

On the verge of professionalism, when players were “normal” sizes, Lomu was 18 stone and ran the 100m in 10 seconds. Since then coaches, exercise scientists, and genetic laboratories have been churning out huge lumps of meat with exceptional physical capacity. The game became a race towards bigger players and overwhelming the opposition with power. And yet, there’s still space for the normal-sized person: players of exceptional skill, speed, or simple, bloody-minded resilience. Shane Williams was world player of the year in 2008, has 91 international caps, was 5’7” and weighed 176lbs (79kg).

Can you explain a bit more about what you mean by “Rugby players are the CrossFitters to American Football’s powerlifters”?
So, why can’t players be as heavily specialised as their American counterparts? In the latter, play typically lasts less than 30 seconds at a time, with special teams taking to the field for different parts of the game. Players have one job to do, and rarely find themselves in unfamiliar roles. In rugby, play may last up to 3 minutes at a time and players have to be able to adapt to a range of different scenarios, often within the same phase of play. Substitutions are limited (in the amateur era, there weren’t any tactical subs, now there are some). In Super Rugby (the southern hemisphere’s highest level club competition), players will run an average of 70m a minute (about half of those runs at maximum speed) and be involved in upwards of 30 collision events (tackles).

To replicate a top level backrow’s season, do an 80-minute workout of heavy sled push every 5 minutes, sprint 70m every 2 minutes, and get hit by a car (no joke, the forces are similar), every Saturday.

Here are two different approaches to long phases of play in the game.

One is a Super Rugby game from a few years ago, lots of running, lots of changes of
possession: Click here to watch!

And, Ireland from this year’s 6 Nations championship. This is at the end of the game, and they go through 40 phases to score a drop-goal and win the match. Click here to watch Ireland’s Match!

To hold possession for that long is borderline impossible, and it’s difficult to communicate how tiring this is. Looking at these examples purely as physical endeavour, the former features constant high-speed sprints, with long distances covered in each run. The latter is more intermittent high power activity, with short bursts of strength and power work and short recovery periods. You may note that the physical requirements of each example define which players are more likely to be involved. Numbers 1 to 8 have the ball more in the 6 Nations video, 9 to 15 have it in the Super Rugby clip.

Oly Lifting Program for the Week


A) Snatch Pull+ Snatch
6 x 1+1+1@75-80%
B) Back squats
4x 2@ 80-85%
C) Push press + Split jerk
5 x 1+1 @ 77.5-82.5%

Assistance work
Incline weighted Ys
3 x 8
Weighted pull ups
4 x 5


A) Clean pull + Clean
6 x 1+1@75-80%
B) Back squats
3 x 3@80-85%
C) Jerk dip + Split jerk
5 x 1+2 @77.5-82.5%

Assistance work
3 x 8
Weighted chin ups
4 x 5

(Visited 6 times, 1 visits today)