Leeds Rugby and Leeds Metropolitan University create groundbreaking research projects

Leeds Rugby and Leeds Metropolitan University have jointly funded three PhD studentships. The successful candidates will spend the next three years at Leeds Rugby, looking at ways sports science can help optimise performance and also help talent identification.

Jason Davidson (Head of Athletic Performance) and Dr. Ben Jones (Senior Lecturer in Sport and Exercise Physiology at Leeds Metropolitan University and Head of Academy Athletic Development at Leeds Rugby) developed the initial proposal at the end of last season.

Jason and Ben identified key areas where they felt research would further develop the practice at the club. Professor Carlton Cooke (Associate Dean Carnegie Research), Pete Mackreth (Head of School – Sport) and Dr. John O’Hara from Leeds Metropolitan University were instrumental in the process, which highlights not only the strength of the relationship between the club and the university, but also the wider support network available to the sports science staff and club as a whole.

Chris Black will explore the effects of training and match play on acute and chronic fatigue. Chris working closely with Jason Davidson, will be supervised by Dr. John O’Hara, Dr. Ben Jones and Dr. Kevin Till, who all have a vast amount of applied and research experience in rugby, helping to keep Brian McDermott’s team fresh all the way through the season.

Josh Darrall-Jones was the second successful candidate, who will explore the physiological and anthropometric development in academy Rugby League and Rugby Union players, with consideration for match play performance. Dr. Kevin Till, Dr. Ben Jones and Professor Carlton Cooke, will supervise Josh. This specific PhD will look to develop new research into what are the key characteristics of junior rugby players

Finally, the third successful candidate Deborah Fearnley will look into the dietary requirements of academy rugby players. Dr. Lauren Duckworth, Dr. Ben Jones, Louise Sutton and Professor Roderick King will supervise Deborah, who will be exploring the optimal diet for academy rugby players. This specific PhD demonstrates the commitment of the club to the health and wellbeing of the next generation of players involved at the club.

Commenting on the appointment of Chris, Josh and Deborah Dr. Ben Jones said, “The club and Leeds Metropolitan University should both be commended on this initiative, as it is not only fantastic for the club, but also for research within rugby. The commitment of the club to fund the three PhDs demonstrates the long-term vision of the staff at the club, especially Jason Davidson. Equally, the support of Professor Carlton Cooke, shows the strength of the partnership between the University and the club on the ground. Engaging in activity like this also highlights that as a club, we are committed to doing things in the right way. Everyone is aware of the expertise that is available from Leeds Metropolitan University, therefore at the end of last season following a staffing change, appointing three PhD students who will be supervised by staff from Leeds Met was an obvious choice. Leeds Met has been a leader in rugby research for a long time, for example Dr. Kevin Till is now regarded as a leading researcher in the physiological development of academy rugby players, which was part of the reason this opportunity was so exciting. Chris, Josh and Deborah all come with a lot of experience and expertise to help provide the best level of sports science to the players. The support that the university has offered the club is huge; likewise the opportunity for the three students to work with world-class players is also fantastic. This move demonstrates the club and University’s initiative towards world-leading research and performance.”

The PhD students will join the team of experts already working at Leeds Rugby led by Jason Davidson with Ryan Clayton heading up the conditioning for Leeds Carnegie working with Shane Carney and Jimmy Gray who works with the AASE players in the Leeds Carnegie squad.