The assessment of motor competence in rugby
The purpose of this study was to develop a valid test battery that could measure movement competence in rugby at U/16 level. Movement competence was adopted as the focus in this research because rugby is a sport consisting of challenges in primarily open skill situations. Competence is a level of proficiency that is higher than that of a novice, but not as high as an expert. Competence in rugby would imply that a player is reasonably successful in meeting the challenges of the dynamic situations on the field. Following a review of some different approaches to defining the abilities that seem to contribute to competence, movement competence in rugby at U/16 level was defined in terms of physical abilities, motor abilities and rugby skills. A test battery was designed to measure these variables, and then the battery was administered to the U/16 regional level group (n = 21) and the U/16 average level group (n = 108) from the same region. Anthropometry was recognised as a source of critical information in talent identification and development programmes, but because it has been well studied by other investigators, it was not included. Test validity was examined by comparing the scores between the two groups (the assumption is that the regional group should score higher on each item) and by asking the coaches to rate the tests in terms of face validity. The regional group achieved significantly better results in terms of speed, aerobic fitness, flexibility and power, in comparison with the average group. This suggests that the provincial players are more physical fit than the average high school players at U/16 level. However, the results of the motor abilities and skill items did not show a significant difference between the two groups. Although the coaches rated the test battery highly, new test items for these variables need to be considered to the next cycle in the Test of Rugby Competence.