The Influence of Relative Age Effects in Representative Youth Rugby Union in the North West of England

S.J. Roberts, Stuart J. Fairclough

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The aims of this study were (a) to examine whether relative age effects (RAEs) existed in representative youth rugby union squads (Under 13sUnder 16s) in North West (NW) England and (b) to what extent a Rugby Development Officer (RDO) responsible for NW England rugby talent identification and development was aware of the relative age effect phenomenon. Data were obtained from (n = 167) male NW England youth rugby union players registered for the 20092010 season and a RDO employed by the Rugby Football Union (RFU). Using chi-square goodness-of-fit tests, the researchers analyzed the birth dates of the subjects against male birth distributions in the United Kingdom. Qualitative data obtained from the RDO were subject to inductive analysis procedures. Chisquare analyses revealed significant RAEs in all the representative age groups: Under 13s (c = 7.70, p < 0.04), Under 14s (c = 9.77, p < 0.01), Under 15s (c = 9.16, p < 0.01), and Under 16s (c = 23.06, p < 0.01). However the largest effect size was observed in the Under 16 age group between Quarter 1 and Quarter 4 (Q1 vs. Q4 OR: 6.23, 95% CI: 1.90, 5.17). A follow-up interview revealed limited understanding of the relative age effect phenomenon and potentially insensitive selection procedures. Despite attempts by the national governing body of sport for rugby union to reduce the existence of relative age effects at the selection process, our findings support other studies of RAEs in team sport selection, such as rugby league, soccer, and ice hockey. To reduce the possibilities of RAEs in regional rugby union, both coaches and administrators need to consider alternative selection procedures.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)86-98
JournalAsian Journal of Exercise and Sports Science
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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