After sharing his notes from the 2019 Carnegie Applied Rugby Research (CARR) Conference with Sports Discovery, Cédric Leduc returns with notes from French Rugby’s conference. The conference is broadcast in full on YouTube (in French).
Julien Piscione, Head of Performance at French Rugby, kick-started the conference with the story of how French rugby research began. Piscione went on to explain that despite the federation having a great set up in terms of research and sport science support, research from French Rugby is not reaching an international audience. The research team proposed an annual seminar as a potential method of disseminating research. The first seminar was held last year (2018) and was a great success with more than 100 participants coming from all around France. This year was the second seminar. It was developed with the specific aim of sharing research outputs and improving quality between French Rugby and academics and practitioners in France. The following lines summarise the different talks presented throughout this fabulous day.
Ludovic Seifert is a Professor at Rouen University in France. He spoke about skill development and the cognitive processes involved in skill acquisition in sport. He introduced some critical concepts in human and motor control (cognitive and ecologic) and how such concepts may be applied in coaching. Furthermore, he explained how it is possible to develop motor skill abilities with constraining the development of either skill acquisition or skill adaptations. Then, he explained how this concept could be translated to practice by providing examples. Seifert concluded his talk by outlining the importance of developing athlete adaptability through the formation of a large range of skills and abilities.
Cedric is a PhD student at Leeds Beckett University working on fatigue and recovery amongst Rugby Union players. In his presentation, Cedric described how the Carnegie Applied Rugby Research (CARR) group (see the article on the CARR conference for more information) is working on a range of topics, focussing on the research around collisions. Leduc concluded by providing some practical recommendations about how to conduct research in an applied setting.
Maxim is a masters student and sport scientist at French Rugby, working with the French women’s seven teams. He presented some preliminary results about the automatic detection of impact via embedded technology. One of the main issues highlighted by Brick related to the detection of collision activity during game play and training. The current common practice is to use video analysis. However, such a method is time-consuming when used on a daily basis. As such, Brick proposed the use of accelerometers to detect contact activity in a less time consuming manner. Brick concluded by stating some of the issues associated with embedded technology. These include the potential inaccuracies associated with automatically detecting collision activities during rugby sevens, thus suggesting that more investigations are warranted in this area.
Antoine Relave is an S&C coach and PhD student. He introduced his work about how different types of conditioning sessions may impact team cohesion. It showed that a mix conditioning session (i.e. integration of specific movements and competitions) may be the most beneficial in term of team cohesion. Relave finished by acknowledging some limitations of his study and concluded that conditioning sessions should be prepared with the double objective of: psychological and fitness preparation.
Alexandre is an S&C coach who works for the French track cycling team. He used to be an S&C coach for the French Rugby academy from 2015 to 2017. He completed his PhD in 2016 on the effects of weight loss among elite weightlifters. Alexandre described his recent paper, published in the Strength and Conditioning Journal, which discussed the long-term outcomes of strength and power development among rugby union players. This was a standout presentation with a lot of practical applications from a world-class practitioner. I really invite you to follow his work.
Julien is the S&C coach for the French rugby sevens team. He was awarded his PhD in 2013 after investigating concurrent training among rugby players. Julien also led the S&C program in preparation for the Olympic games held in Rio in 2016. He transparently explained (rare at such an elite level!) all of the preparation that went into the Olympics. Throughout his talk, he introduced all the challenges that can be encountered by an S&C Coach working with an elite sevens team.
Worth noting was the implementation of applied research to assess the efficiency of a tapering strategy in order to anticipate problems and to ensure an evidence-based approach was adhered to in preparation for the Games (see the paper here). What really impressed me was Julien’s ability to implement and apply research to his practice, and then to design future research in an elite environment. Such a practice has to be acknowledged and encouraged.
Florence is a Masters student in sport science as well as a nutritionist for French Rugby. One of the issues she is faced with is player buy-in regarding post-training protein consumption. As such, in this presentation Mullie proposed how a different form of protein intake could improve player buy-in and thus recovery. She explained that a literature review had revealed limited research on alternative protein sources, and none on the bioavailablity of amino acids in different types of snacks. As a result, Mullie compared bioavailability of amino acids in different snacks; a cookie, a smoothie, and a traditional shake. She concluded the talk by describing that the shake is still the best option in terms of post-training recovery, while the cookie may be interesting for a more long-term point of view in terms of player buy-in.
Anis is a PhD student at the French Institute of Sport (INSEP). In partnership with French Rugby, he assessed the effects of a top-up mattress on recovery. He compared the outcomes to those achieved with whole body cryotherapy and a control condition, after an elite academy rugby game. This research was really impressive as all the players were followed via polysomnography, the gold standard of sleep measure. The results proposed some beneficial effects of the top-up mattress on sleep architecture, supporting its use in an elite rugby set up.
Professor Philippe Rouch
Rouch explained the journey from classic biomechanical analysis to the use of a robotic arm to assess the interaction between rugby boots and the pitch. Rouch’s results were impressive and highlight the high level of reliability achieved with such an approach. Such results may have implications for boot assessment and for long term performance and injury prevention.
Benjamin is a PhD student working with the top 14 team ‘Racing 92’. The aim of his PhD is to assess individual and collective force production during the scrum. Using a scrum simulator at French Rugby, Lallemand showed how force may evolve during a scrum and outlined a potential loss of force transmission between the different lines of the scrum. Such results may help coaches during the scrum session.
Jeremy is a PhD student and data scientist at French Rugby. He presented results from a study investigating the risk of concussion in Top 14 players over a 5yr period. This research is one of the largest scale research projects ever done on concussion in this population. The mains findings are as follow:
- the final stage of the season presents a greater risk of sustaining concussion;
- anthropometric data may be of importance regarding concussion risk especially for the tackler, and
- higher risk of concussion was observed for players with low game time.
Mathieu is the head of research and innovation at Paris Saint Germain (PSG). Previously, he completed his PhD with French Rugby in 2013. Mathieu described the 3 research projects that have been conducted by the PSG research team regarding hamstring training.
- The first project aimed to assess hamstring strength in an ecological context and understand how body weight may affect the evaluation.
- The second study investigated the scheduling of hamstring prevention exercises and outlined how scheduling an injury prevention session may be possible the day after the game.
- To conclude, he introduced his most recent work about the effect of the volume (high vs low) on hamstring adaptations.
Master Student Challenge
This year, French rugby proposed an open innovation challenge to current masters students. Successful master students were selected to present their current work; a great opportunity for the student as well as for the audience. The winner was also awarded 10,000 euros to support his/her future research. The presentations included psychology, environmental training, small sided games and force velocity profiling. These can be watched via the Youtube link.
Dr Oliver Girard is one of the world leaders in altitude training. He presented a global overview of his past and current work with an outstanding accuracy. The main take home messages are as follows. First, altitude training may help to acclimatise when athletes compete in altitude. Also, hypoxic training could act as an additional stimulus in order to improve the performance at sea level. Finally, he proposed that such a method of hypoxic training may help the injured player.
Head of S&C at French Rugby, Julien explained the processes at French Rugby regarding the use of the data coming from video analysis as well as GPS metrics. He explained the different types of report made for the coaches during international competition. It was a really enjoyable presentation that was well-conducted. It gave insight into the current challenges facing the Performance Department at French Rugby regarding the use of the data.
An original talk was proposed by Abd-Elbasset Abaidia (consultant). Abd-Elbasset got his PhD in 2016 in recovery kinetics and muscle damage in collaboration with Gregory Dupont (Head of Performance at French Football). This talk was original because he explained the importance of scientific evidence and methodological bias when a practitioner wants to make a prescription based on the literature. He concluded by stating that the number of publications is not a problem, rather the quality of the research. He used recovery strategies as an example and highlighted how some concepts regarding current recovery practices are flawed.
Yann Le Meur
We do not really need to introduce Yann, do we? Well known within the sports science community, Yann presented his recent opinion paper (co-written with Lorena Torres) published in Sports Performance Scientific Reports. More than a talk, it was an inspirational insight about the challenges a sports scientist may face. To summarise: Adaptability, hard work, resilience and… chance are the take-home messages. I urge you to read this paper as it could help to solve some of the issue that you are experiencing.
Research conducted by French Rugby is relatively unknown on the international stage, compared to other research groups. However, they are conducting highly relevant studies by a number of high-quality practitioners and researchers, which could be applied to practice to improve outcomes. This seminar is proof of their hard work. I for one am looking forward to seeing what research will be presented next year. Perhaps with some more international speakers?