Paging through the recently published book “The Science of Rugby” edited by Dr Craig Twist and Dr Paul Worsfold (link), which covers everything from strength and power training and match-day strategies for enhancing physical and technical performance, to nutrition and biomechanics in both rugby union and rugby league, I remembered there was a time not too long ago published research articles in rugby were few. To check that I was not falling victim to the recall bias, and because it is a Rugby World Cup year, I did a little Scopus search to determine the current status of research in rugby. Scopus is like Google, but for research papers. Scopus also organises information by year, source, country and affiliation.
So, the 1st search I did was for articles using the term “Rugby” in the title, abstract or part of the keywords. Using the term “Rugby” like this in Scopus means both League and Union papers will be included. Note, I did not exclude areas like humanities and business, and all data points may not represent full research articles. This is what we found…
Number of articles published on “Rugby”
3051 published articles since 1862, 40% of these published in the last 5 years.
Top Journals publishing on “Rugby”
Top journals publishing in rugby are BJSM, JSCS, JSS, and JSMS. SAMJ was the first journal to publish on rugby, BJSM the most consistent, and JSCS the most number of publications in the last 5 years.
Top Authors publishing in “Rugby”
Most published author in rugby- Tim Gabbett (Gabbett Performance)-no surprise there. The head S&C coach of the top performing team in the world, Nicholas Gill, is the 3rd most published author in rugby research. This says something.
Top affiliations publishing in “Rugby”
Top countries publishing in “Rugby”
We did the same search for “Rugby Union”. Using this search term will only output papers containing “Rugby Union” in the title, abstract or part of the keywords.
Number of articles published on “Rugby Union”
742 articles. Approximately 50% published in the last 5 years.
Top Journals publishing on “Rugby Union”
Top Authors publishing in “Rugby Union”
I have a particular interest in the tackle situation. So, I did a search for “Rugby” AND “tackle”. Below are the results…
Number of articles published on “Rugby” AND “tackle”
Top Journals publishing on “Rugby” AND “tackle”
Top authors publishing on “Rugby” AND “tackle”
Top affiliations publishing on “Rugby” AND “tackle”
Top countries publishing on “Rugby” AND “tackle”
We could do the same searches for any aspect of the sport really (for example, the scrum).
Although research in rugby may be growing at a rapid pace, rugby (league and union combined) is still behind other team sports like football (I did a small search on “football” OR “soccer” and Scopus produced 26941 papers), and there is plenty of scope for research (not too sad about this). There are obvious products from this body of work (better conditioned players, more knowledgeable coaches, reducing the risk of injury, etc), but in terms of conducting research, the exponential increase in rugby research somewhat forces scientists to be creative, and highly applied in their studies.