Research Project

Age Grade Rugby: The Half Game Rule

Project overview

Organised sport is viewed as a vehicle in which children and young people can enhance psychosocial competencies, motor skills, and emotion regulation, whilst also increasing their levels of physical activity. In order to maximise these benefits, however, children and young people must get the opportunity to regularly train and compete.

The aim of this research was to assess the impact of a rule change in youth rugby whereby any player selected as part of a match day squad must play at least half a game or equivalent (i.e., the ‘Half-Game Rule’). We found that players who “always or almost always” experienced playing at least half a game more often than other players; reported higher enjoyment, than those who played less regularly. Importantly, players who reported higher levels of enjoyment also reported greater intentions to continue playing rugby. Simply, by letting players play, you can facilitate greater enjoyment in team sport and reduce attrition in youth sport more generally.

The change was trialled in four regions and Essex academics were tasked with assessing whether it improved enjoyment and participation in the sport and should therefore be introduced more widely.

Former England Sevens international Dr Ben Jones and child fitness expert Dr Gavin Sandercock, who is also a former rugby player, are from our School of Sport, Rehabilitation and Exercise Sciences.

They looked at whether the change achieved its aim as well as whether it affected the flow of the game, the number of injuries or the final score.

Related Paper:

  • Jones B, Hope E, Hammond A, Moran J, Leeder T, Mills J, Sandercock G. Play more, enjoy more, keep playing; rugby is a simple game. International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching. 2021 Jun;16(3):636-45.


This research was funded by the Rugby Football Union (RFU).

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