Talent Identification and Relative Age Effects in English Male Rugby Union Pathways: From Entry to Expertise

Kelly, Adam L. and Till, Kevin and Jackson, Daniel and Barrell, Donald and Burke, Kate and Turnnidge, Jennifer (2021) Talent Identification and Relative Age Effects in English Male Rugby Union Pathways: From Entry to Expertise. Frontiers in Sports and Active Living, 3. p. 640607. ISSN 2624-9367

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A common practice in youth rugby union is to group players based on (bi)annual age with fixed cut-off dates. The overrepresentation of players born at the start of the cut-off date and the underrepresentation of players born toward the end of the cut-off date are termed relative age effects (RAEs). The aim of this study was to examine RAEs during entry into professional and international rugby union pathways in England, as well as comparing them to their respective senior cohort: U15 Regional Academy Player (n = 1,114) vs. Senior Professional Player (n = 281) and U16–23 England Academy Player (n = 849) vs. Senior International Player (n = 48). Chi-square (χ2) analysis compared birth quarter (BQ) distributions against expected distributions. Odds ratios and 95% confidence intervals compared the likelihood of a BQ being selected. Findings revealed a significant overrepresentation of relatively older players compared with their relatively younger peers within both youth cohorts (P < 0.001; BQ1 = 42.5% vs. BQ4 = 9.6%; BQ1 = 36.5% vs. BQ4 = 15.2%). In comparison, there was no significant difference in the BQ distributions within both senior cohorts. Further, BQ4s were 3.86 and 3.9 times more likely to achieve senior professional and international levels than BQ1s and BQ2s, respectively. It is suggested that relatively younger players may have a greater likelihood of achieving expertise following entry into a rugby union talent pathway due to benefitting from more competitive play against relatively older counterparts during their development (e.g., reversal effects; the underdog hypothesis). Moreover, possible solutions (e.g., age and anthropometric banding; playing-up and playing-down) are discussed to encourage practitioners and policy makers to create the most appropriate learning environment for every player.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: ** From Frontiers via Jisc Publications Router ** History: received 11-12-2020; collection 2021; accepted 13-01-2021; epub 19-02-2021. ** Licence for this article: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
Identification Number: https://doi.org/10.3389/fspor.2021.640607
13 January 2021Accepted
19 February 2021Published
Uncontrolled Keywords: Sports and Active Living, Rugby Football Union, age-grade rugby, talent identification, talent development, player pathway
Subjects: CAH03 - biological and sport sciences > CAH03-02 - sport and exercise sciences > CAH03-02-01 - sport and exercise sciences
Divisions: Faculty of Health, Education and Life Sciences > School of Health Sciences
SWORD Depositor: JISC PubRouter
Depositing User: JISC PubRouter
Date Deposited: 05 Mar 2021 10:06
Last Modified: 12 Jan 2022 11:36
URI: https://www.open-access.bcu.ac.uk/id/eprint/11220

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