Player Development

ZRU & Rugby Development

The ZRU is committed to the development of rugby and rugby players of all ages.

In this section you will find information on our Long Term Player Development model, which provides an integrated framework to facilitate the development of rugby players at all levels of participation and experience.

You will also find detailed information on coaching, fitness, skills & drills and conditioning.

The ZRU would like to thank our sponsors in these key areas for their support of the various initiatives to promote the game of rugby and the well-being and development of our players.


The Young Player

The Young Player section seeks to provide information about developing the fitness required for Rugby appropriate to the Young player. It very important to recognise the particular needs of the young player. The young player is not a mini-adult. While the young player’s needs will vary from player to player, it is clear that teenagers nowadays are less physically active than their parents were two decades ago. This is readily seen in the disappearance of informal play from the lifestyle of the young player. The impact of this reduced activity in our youth poses a challenge to all of us. Therefore, it is particularly important that we expose our younger players to training methods that emphasise skill and motor fitness as opposed to intense heavy training regimes.

General Fitness

The second section will include general articles on Fitness covering fitness training, fitness testing, diet and nutrition, recovery strategies and other topics related to Fitness devlopment. The content in this particular section will be suitable for the general public and the senior player.

It is our intention to keep you updated with the latest fitness information as it becomes available.


Carbohydrates (ie sugars and starches) are the best source of fuel for Rugby football. Carbohydrates are stored in the body (as a substance called glycogen) and are the most efficient energy source for repeated and prolonged activity carried out at a high intensity. In order to ensure that the stores of glycogen are full and replenished after exercise, the young player’s diet needs to be high in carbohydrates. As a guide, approximately 60% of the total calories consumed should come from carbohydrates. Examples of carbohydrate rich foods are: sugar, jam, fruit juices. However, note that these forms of carbohydrates are low in nutritional value and should only be consumed immediately after training and in relatively small quantities. At all other times complex carbohydrates such as fruit, vegetables, rice and cereals are recommended.

Protein in the diet is necessary for growth and repair of new and damaged cells, eg muscle tissue. Players in training at all ages may need to increase their dietary protein, however, this can be done by eating more food to meet training energy requirements. In this manner the player will naturally increase his protein intake.

Foods high in protein include: lean meat, fish, milk, cheese, soybeans…
Protein should be approximately 15% of the total calories consumed.

Fats are a more concentrated fuel than carbohydrates and are more easily stored. However, fat requires more oxygen to release its energy value than does carbohydrate and is, therefore, more inefficient than carbohydrate. Fat is not the fuel used for high-intensity repetitive activities typical of Rugby. Any excess fat above an optimal level will only serve to decrease performance potential. Irish youth are typically fatter than their European and southern hemisphere counterparts. This can be attributed to two key factors, one, limited activity or exercise patterns and two, excess caloric consumption.

Ideally, fat intake should be approximately 25% of total calorie intake. As a guide, players should reduce the amount of deep fried foods, pastry, excess butter and margarine they consume, ie “visible” fat.

Vitamins and Minerals are essential for good health and physical performance. However, if the player’s diet is well balanced there should be no need for vitamin and mineral supplements.

Fluid intake should always be maintained during strenuous exercise and should be consumed before, during and after the activity. Water is necessary for proper functioning of the body. It helps maintain body temperature, which is particularly important during the summer months. Heat is produced as a byproduct of work. This heat must be dissipated to keep the body at its preferred temperature. Sweat is produced to help cool the body. Fluid lost via sweat must be continually replaced to enable this cooling process to continue.

In addition being well hydrated is essential in order to benefit form training. Frequently, Irish players approach training and games in a semi-dehydrated condition. Ensuring that all players are well hydrated for training and games will impact positively on their performance.

It is a good idea to monitor all players body weight before and after training or playing. A 1 kilogram reduction in body weight is roughly equivalent to a lose of 1.5 litres of fluid. It’s not unusual for players to lose as much as 3 to 4 kilograms during the course of a game and a loss of 1 to 2 kilograms from training is common. Use these changes in body weight as a guide to how much fluid a player should consume following training and games. This is particularly important when training and playing on consecutive days – players can quickly become chronically dehydrated when they are required to train and compete frequently and this will have a negative impact on their ability to perform and recover. 


World Rugby Concussion Management Consensus Statement on concussion in sport – The 5th International Conference held in Berlin, October 2016.

The Sport Concussion Assessment Tool 5th Edition (SCAT5)

The Child Sport Concussion Assessment Tool 5th Edition (Child SCAT5)

For information on IMPACT (a neurocognitive test that is used to help manage concussions) please click here