Rugby Union

Although you might not realise it, the weather can have a huge impact on rugby. Not only do teams have to adapt their strategy according to the conditions, but players must take extra care of themselves in extreme conditions, to reduce their risk of getting injured.

Heat and humidity, cold temperatures, rain, and wind all bring their own set of challenges; and players must ensure they stay hydrated, keep their core body temperature stable, and their muscles supple throughout their training and games, to maintain their optimum performance levels.

Weather

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Heat and humidity

When temperatures rise above 21°C, it can start to affect rugby players’ speed, power and endurance. Whilst acclimatised and hydrated athletes can usually limit heat gain to within 5°C through sweat, this is only the case in normal temperatures – so for Northern European teams playing in hotter climates like Australia, this doesn’t happen.

Both the heat and humidity can affect the body’s cooling ability, which results in core temperatures rising. This is because it’s the evaporation (not the production) of sweat that enables bodies to shed excess heat. When training or playing matches in high temperatures, rugby players will find that their sweat either pools on their skin, or drips off, which can cause them to become dehydrated.

The 2019 World Cup in Japan was a particularly humid tournament. Ireland prepared for the challenge by training in plastic vests to get used to sweating more, while the England team flew to a warm training camp in Italy to acclimatise to 80-90% humidity.

Sadly, heat stroke is not uncommon for rugby players; and neither is heat exhaustion, with fainting, light-headedness, vomiting and nausea all classic symptoms. Players are advised to drink water all the time to combat dehydration.

Rugby union matches that take place in warmer climates like Australia, South Africa, and the Pacific island nations have a higher possibility of these drastic effects impacting the players, compared to European nations.

Rain

The 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan saw a variety of weather conditions, ranging from hot and humid, to strong winds and stormy rains, and was the first to have two fixtures cancelled on weather-related safety grounds, including England vs France.

For matches that do go ahead in the rain, wet conditions can be very challenging for rugby players, with a likelihood of an increase in handling errors and scrums, resulting in fewer opportunities to score.

Downpours of rain can also lead to injuries, which is why teams are advised to keep tactics simple. Players that use brute force often perform better in wet conditions, whereas those who are agile and fast tend to see better results in warm weather.

One thing a rugby player needs to consider when it’s raining, is their rugby kits. If they get too wet, their body temperatures can drop, leading to muscle strains and injuries. While players can’t wear waterproofs during the match, they’re all advised to wrap up in wet weather gear before the game starts, so they don’t start off playing soaking wet.

Wind

During training and matches, wind can have the opposite effect of warm weather, as it increases the rate of sweat evaporation – meaning players will feel much cooler, much quicker.

Couple this with the fact that the wind can be very unpredictable; players can be faced with conditions that change throughout the game, making it very difficult to determine a strategy.

In the 2020 Six Nations Wales v Ireland match, the Met Office warned of winds blowing up to 80mph, meaning the two teams had to rethink their strategies if they wanted to be in with a chance of winning.

It’s much easier for teams that are playing into the wind – although this is never guaranteed for the whole match, as the wind can change directions. However, even then, the way they play will still need to be adjusted. For example, in strong winds, players will try to avoid kicking the ball, but if they need to, they’ll keep it low.

It’s important for teams to keep up their morale during matches with strong winds, in addition to having higher concentration levels, as it’s highly likely that more mistakes will be made.

Freezing temperatures

Cold temperatures bring about their own set of challenges that players must battle with. It’s crucial they keep their core temperatures up, otherwise they’re in danger of experiencing slower body reactions and muscle contractions.

Before a match or training session begins, players spend extra time warming up and stretching, to ensure they have a good blood flow, and keep their bodies limber, to reduce the chances of injury.

During half time and after matches, players warm up in fleece-lined hoodies, jogging bottoms and hats, to stop their muscles from seizing up.

Perhaps surprisingly, dehydration can also be caused by cold temperatures. This is because water is still lost through sweat and breathing; and players may not be as mindful of drinking fluids as they would be in warmer temperatures.

In 2015, the record was broken for the northernmost – and coldest – rugby match. Former England players Ollie Phillips and Tim Stimpson captained teams for a match in the North Pole to raise money for charity. Whilst the temperature of -30°C was extreme, they found that by keeping their concentration levels up and team spirit high, they could battle through the harsh conditions.

It’s not often rugby fixtures are cancelled, and we regularly see games played in all sorts of weather, but a 2012 Six Nations game between France and Ireland did fall victim to the conditions – cancelled ten minutes before kick-off. It was the first time since 1985 that fans saw a Six Nations postponement due to adverse weather, with -5°C temperatures freezing the pitch solid.

Close

Heat and humidity

When temperatures rise above 21°C, it can start to affect rugby players’ speed, power and endurance. Whilst acclimatised and hydrated athletes can usually limit heat gain to within 5°C through sweat, this is only the case in normal temperatures – so for Northern European teams playing in hotter climates like Australia, this doesn’t happen.

Both the heat and humidity can affect the body’s cooling ability, which results in core temperatures rising. This is because it’s the evaporation (not the production) of sweat that enables bodies to shed excess heat. When training or playing matches in high temperatures, rugby players will find that their sweat either pools on their skin, or drips off, which can cause them to become dehydrated.

The 2019 World Cup in Japan was a particularly humid tournament. Ireland prepared for the challenge by training in plastic vests to get used to sweating more, while the England team flew to a warm training camp in Italy to acclimatise to 80-90% humidity.

Sadly, heat stroke is not uncommon for rugby players; and neither is heat exhaustion, with fainting, light-headedness, vomiting and nausea all classic symptoms. Players are advised to drink water all the time to combat dehydration.

Rugby union matches that take place in warmer climates like Australia, South Africa, and the Pacific island nations have a higher possibility of these drastic effects impacting the players, compared to European nations.

Close

Rain

The 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan saw a variety of weather conditions, ranging from hot and humid, to strong winds and stormy rains, and was the first to have two fixtures cancelled on weather-related safety grounds, including England vs France.

For matches that do go ahead in the rain, wet conditions can be very challenging for rugby players, with a likelihood of an increase in handling errors and scrums, resulting in fewer opportunities to score.

Downpours of rain can also lead to injuries, which is why teams are advised to keep tactics simple. Players that use brute force often perform better in wet conditions, whereas those who are agile and fast tend to see better results in warm weather.

One thing a rugby player needs to consider when it’s raining, is their rugby kits. If they get too wet, their body temperatures can drop, leading to muscle strains and injuries. While players can’t wear waterproofs during the match, they’re all advised to wrap up in wet weather gear before the game starts, so they don’t start off playing soaking wet.

Close

Wind

During training and matches, wind can have the opposite effect of warm weather, as it increases the rate of sweat evaporation – meaning players will feel much cooler, much quicker.

Couple this with the fact that the wind can be very unpredictable; players can be faced with conditions that change throughout the game, making it very difficult to determine a strategy.

In the 2020 Six Nations Wales v Ireland match, the Met Office warned of winds blowing up to 80mph, meaning the two teams had to rethink their strategies if they wanted to be in with a chance of winning.

It’s much easier for teams that are playing into the wind – although this is never guaranteed for the whole match, as the wind can change directions. However, even then, the way they play will still need to be adjusted. For example, in strong winds, players will try to avoid kicking the ball, but if they need to, they’ll keep it low.

It’s important for teams to keep up their morale during matches with strong winds, in addition to having higher concentration levels, as it’s highly likely that more mistakes will be made.

Close

Freezing temperatures

Cold temperatures bring about their own set of challenges that players must battle with. It’s crucial they keep their core temperatures up, otherwise they’re in danger of experiencing slower body reactions and muscle contractions.

Before a match or training session begins, players spend extra time warming up and stretching, to ensure they have a good blood flow, and keep their bodies limber, to reduce the chances of injury.

During half time and after matches, players warm up in fleece-lined hoodies, jogging bottoms and hats, to stop their muscles from seizing up.

Perhaps surprisingly, dehydration can also be caused by cold temperatures. This is because water is still lost through sweat and breathing; and players may not be as mindful of drinking fluids as they would be in warmer temperatures.

In 2015, the record was broken for the northernmost – and coldest – rugby match. Former England players Ollie Phillips and Tim Stimpson captained teams for a match in the North Pole to raise money for charity. Whilst the temperature of -30°C was extreme, they found that by keeping their concentration levels up and team spirit high, they could battle through the harsh conditions.

It’s not often rugby fixtures are cancelled, and we regularly see games played in all sorts of weather, but a 2012 Six Nations game between France and Ireland did fall victim to the conditions – cancelled ten minutes before kick-off. It was the first time since 1985 that fans saw a Six Nations postponement due to adverse weather, with -5°C temperatures freezing the pitch solid.