Using GPS in rugby union is a popular way for rugby teams and clubs to get performance insights that are unique to each player.
Once you have accurate data captured by wearing a GPS tracker vest then players can understand their own performance.
Fitness, stamina, tactics and injury recovery and prevention can all be considered, based on the metrics from GPS trackers.
There’s a lot more to learn than just how much ground your prop covers on a Saturday; the physical demands on rugby players is a key use of GPS rugby trackers.
In this guide, we’ll explain what GPS trackers do and how to use them for training sessions and rugby matches to get live data that will give valuable insights.
What does GPS mean in rugby?
Global Positioning System (GPS) is already common in our cars, phones and fitness devices.
It’s a way to show your accurate current location and track your movement. Its application in rugby union is really exciting as it can revolutionise pitch performance.
By knowing how fast a winger can sprint, how far your inside centre runs and where your number eight spent the first half, coaches can adapt a training session and set future goals.
Managing player fitness and conditioning in contacts sports like rugby union is vital to keep them healthy and performing at their best.
Using GPs trackers in rugby is not limited to professional teams, with the costs of the equipment more affordable than they once were.
With PitcheroPGS, our Team Bundle has GPS trackers and GPS sports vests for 20 players. It includes a protective case that charges the trackers in less than 60 minutes, a tablet for coaches and a two-year software subscription.
How does GPS track rugby players?
A GPS tracker is a smart device worn by a rugby union player in a GPS vest. It sits between the shoulder blades and doesn’t impact movement.
The tracker stores crucial information that can be uploaded for later analysis.
- Total distance covered
- Total active time
- Top speed
- High speed running
- Positioning Heatmaps
A PitcheroGPS tracker weighs just 37g and has a 100Hz accelerometer that captures all movements. It can be charged in 30 minutes and has unlimited storage as well as being water-resistant.
Tracking how many miles or kilometres a player covers is a great way to understand a number of factors relating to stamina, fatigue levels and effort in sessions.
The general performance of a rugby squad can be boosted by assessing fitness levels and aiming to better them over a period of time.
Rugby coaches will blend types of running and exercise rather than just a long run each time but the data from GPS trackers shows who can last the longest.
Building up stamina to be able to run for longer distances is an obvious way to gain an edge over opponents.
Total Active Time
Another metric that shows the effectiveness of training sessions or matches is the total active time.
This means how long an individual player is exercising for. It can be shortened or lengthened for any rugby player - but you need to know first.
Is your fly-half doing less because she is carrying an injury? Has your second row covered much more than the rest of your pack?
It’s all personalised, real-time data that is enjoyable to learn from and could well throw up surprises.
What you discover will certainly allow your rugby club to offer bespoke training plans and become smarter - all to get the results you want.
Who are the fastest players in your team or rugby club? A GPS track can settle that debate - but also offer scope for friendly competition within squads.
The feedback from clubs using PitcheroGPS is that players like to know their GPS stats and how they compare with other players in the squad.
It drives them to improve for themselves but also to be faster (or fitter) than team-mates.
High speed running
Measuring ‘high speed running’ will show a rugby squad what level of exercise they have been doing in a training session or a game.
With PitcheroGPS, you can quickly identify standing, walking, jogging or sprinting along with the amount of time spent doing each.
Coaches can set up custom speed zones for their rugby players in order to track the levels of intensity and for how long. That allows a longer period of recovery or more physically demanding slots as required.
Default speed zones are below (in kilometres per hour)
- Walking is <6 kmph
- Jogging is 6-12 kmph
- Running is 12-18 kmph
- Sprinting is >18 kmph
Accelerations / decelerations
It’s not all about how fast or far you run when using GPS trackers for rugby. To elevate the team level, speeding up and slowing down over short distances can be benchmarked too.
As with other GPS metrics discussed here, once rugby players and coaches know how a winger, centre or hooker accelerates or decelerates then that can be worked on in practice.
Rugby is a very stop-start sport with scrums, lineouts and other breaks in play which means how you chase a kick or launch into a tackle from a standing position is important.
Being quick off the blocks and agile enough to slow, turn and pivot are micro indicators that all assist a team over the duration of a game.
These incremental moments can collectively give a rugby team momentum, front-foot ball and line breaks.
They can also be taken into account when monitoring player fatigue and injury risk or comeback.
With PitcheroGPS, the threshold for accelerations and decelerations is set in advance (metres per second squared m/s²). This can be altered before future training.
Wearing their GPS vests, rugby players are then recorded how often they exceed that figure (accelerations) or go below it (decelerations).
In rugby union, there is enormous value to knowing where your players' actual movements are during a training session or a match.
It’s one thing having a tactical plan and another delivering it - as well as learning from key moments and where certain players were at critical times.
It’s another example of where wearing a GPS vest for rugby comes into its own. At line-outs, penalties, scrums and free kicks, how does your team react offensively or defensively?
With this technology, coaches can pick apart what went well and where any individual perhaps should have spent more or less time. Is the full-back out of position? Do players lack stamina at the latter stages of a game and aren’t keeping up?
Whether a player is returning to rugby after being out with an injury or coaches are assessing workloads to prevent one in the first place, GPS tracking tells you exactly how much a player is doing, the effort exerted and levels reached.
PitcheroGPS can also measure ‘impacts’ which are sudden changes of direction. With rugby union being an impact-heavy sport in terms of tackles, rucks, mauls and scrums, measuring impacts is key.
It can show the number of ‘impacts’ a player had in any training session or game. This can be used to adapt future training and manage player workload.
Studies on injury prevention have shown that using this GPS data in sport document injuries often occur with overloading in the build-up to when an injury happens.
Of course, injuries happen all of the time and for many reasons, particularly given the contact nature of rugby union.
Yet, armed with measuring speed, intensity, distance and changes in direction, it’s possible to scale back or scale up the volume and type of training to support a player.
How was technology improved in rugby? GPS tracking can be used in conjunction with video analysis to ensure player welfare from a conditioning point of view alongside examining footage (say for tackle positioning and head contact).
How PitcheroGPS can help your rugby team
Rugby clubs, like Cambridge RFU, are using PitcheroGPS to understand their playing squad better and in future.
Carrick Blake, Head Analyst at Cambridge RUFC, said: ‘The PitcheroGPS app and all the processes that are built-in already are fantastic. It encourages competition and we’re a competitive bunch as a high-flying team. If they’re competing over high speeds then we’re doing our job right.’
The PitcheroGPS Team Bundle includes:
- 20 x GPS Player Trackers
- 20 x Player Vests
- 1 x Coach Tablet
- 1 x Charging Case
- 1 x 2-yr Software Subscription
Request Your PitcheroGPS Demo
Just get in touch if your club, academy, school, college or university wants to have a demo of PitcheroGPS and all of its features.