Size matters say French researchers into success at Rugby World Cups; BUT WELSH COACH DISAGREES AND CITES THE SHANE FACTOR.
Byline: MADELEINE BRINDLEY
IT WILL come as no surprise to opposition defences who've tried to combat Wales' mammoth backline backline
the upper outline of the body's silhouette viewed from the side. - but scientists have proved that when it comes to rugby, size really is everything.
Miniature maestro Shane Williams This article is about the Welsh rugby player. For the American actress, see Shanésia Davis-Williams.
Shane Mark Williams (born 26 February 1977 in Swansea) is a Welsh rugby union footballer who plays as a winger for the Ospreys club and Wales but who can might have dazzled Welsh fans for years, but analysts who studied the performances - and sizes - of hundreds of World Cup players over the past 25 years have found there is no substitute for sheer size.
French researchers found that the magic formula for success at the top echelon of the game revolves around height and weight - with a little bit of experience thrown in for good measure.
And the study, published today in the British Medical Journal The British Medical Journal, or BMJ, is one of the most popular and widely-read peer-reviewed general medical journals in the world. It is published by the BMJ Publishing Group Ltd (owned by the British Medical Association), whose other , will make comforting reading for Warren Gatland Warren David Gatland (born 17 September 1963 in Hamilton, New Zealand and educated at Hamilton Boys' High School and Waikato University) is a former All Black and the current Coach of the Waikato Air New Zealand Cup team. as he prepares to send out a Welsh team at Twickenham with an average weight advantage of 6lb - and exactly twice as many caps per player.
The research appears to be borne out by Wales' success in last year's World Cup, when they finished fourth, narrowly missing a place in the final in losing to eventual runners-up France by a single point.
Despite being a relatively young side, the back line was formidable with the likes of Jamie Roberts, George North and Jonathan Davies; while Wales' most-capped front row forward, Gethin Jenkins Gethin Jenkins (born 17 November 1980) is a Welsh rugby union player. He plays for Cardiff Blues.
He first played rugby union aged 13 at Beddau RFC based in Pontypridd, starting out as a flanker but was pushed forward into the front row at age 15. recovered from injury to play in six games during the New Zealand New Zealand (zē`lənd), island country (2005 est. pop. 4,035,000), 104,454 sq mi (270,534 sq km), in the S Pacific Ocean, over 1,000 mi (1,600 km) SE of Australia. The capital is Wellington; the largest city and leading port is Auckland. campaign.
But Wales attack coach Rob Howley said skills and speed - exemplified by Shane Williams' international match record - are just as important in top tier rugby.
Researchers at the Institut de Recherche re·cher·ché
1. Uncommon; rare.
2. Exquisite; choice.
3. Overrefined; forced.
4. Pretentious; overblown. Biomedicale et d'Epidemiologie du Sport, in Paris, studied almost 2,700 players - 1,457 forwards and 1,235 backs - who took part in Rugby World Cups between 1987 and 2007.
The weight of forwards and backs both progressively increased between each World Cup series, as did the height of backs.
On average, forwards and backs in high performing and winning teams weighed around 2kg more than their less successful counterparts. The researchers said: "Given the constraints of the game, which directs the play towards more and more physical confrontations, rugby becomes a sport where heavy players become increasingly important."
Height was also a factor.
Backs in teams reaching the later stages of the competition, including the semis and final were around 2cm taller than their counterparts in less successful teams.
Winning teams also had a greater amount of collective experience among forwards - almost 40%, compared with just under 32% for other teams.
This percentage increased from quarter-finalist teams (33.4%) to the winning teams (39.6%), emphasising that this is an additional performance factor, say the authors.
The research, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine sports medicine, branch of medicine concerned with physical fitness and with the treatment and prevention of injuries and other disorders related to sports. Knee, leg, back, and shoulder injuries; stiffness and pain in joints; tendinitis; "tennis elbow"; and , concluded: "Although performance in rugby is complex and multi-factorial, simple factors as mass and height are discriminatory in the armament race.
"In fact, teams with heavier forwards and taller backs perform better than others.
"In addition, teams that win a World Cup, arrived in finals, semi-finals and quarter-finals have forwards with greater collective experience than those who do not participate in these matches."
Professor Damian Bailey, professor of physiology and biochemistry at the University of Glamorgan The University of Glamorgan (Welsh: Prifysgol Morgannwg) is a university in Glamorgan, Wales with campuses in Trefforest, Glyntaff, Merthyr Tydfil and Cardiff. History , said: "It's a bit of a no-brainer that the more experience you have, the taller the backs and heavier the forwards, the better they will perform.
"But as far as the forwards are concerned, it's what they are made of rather than how heavy they are that's important.
"The more of their body they can turn into muscle the more they can do rather than just carrying the deadweight of fat around with them."
But Rob Howley, Wales attack coach, said: "Skill in international rugby is so important, ultimately international rugby is about creating space and being able to put the ball into that space.
"Rugby is a passing game and one thing we stress to the players is that while having the physicality, you have to create that space.
"It's a balance of having size, speed and skills - I'd like to think that skill and speed comes a little bit higher than physicality and I'm sure Shane Williams would agree with that as well."
And former Wales wing Adrian Hadley said: "You can be big and strong but not be as much of a ball carrier as someone like Shane Williams.
"But, if you put 15 Shane Williams and 15 George Norths against each other, I'd probably put my money on the George Norths.
"It is defence which wins games - defence is a massive part of the game. At the break down and tackle area, the bigger you are, the more you're going to get.
"It's important but I still think you need the flair to create spaces and opportunities for the bigger boys."
THE LIKELY TWICKENHAM LINE-UPS WALES 15. LEIGH HALFPENNY - Height: 5ft 10in; Weight: 13st 1lb; 29 caps 14. ALEX CUTHBERT - 6ft 6in; 16st 5lb; 3 caps 13. JONATHAN DAVIES - 6ft 1in; 16st 3lb; 23 caps 12. JAMIE ROBERTS - 6ft 4in; 17st 4lb; 41 caps 11. GEORGE NORTH - 6ft 4in; 16st 5lb; 18 caps 10. RHYS PRIESTLAND - 6ft 0in; 13st 9lb; 12 caps 9. MIKE PHILLIPS - 6ft 3in; 15st 10in; 62 caps 8. TOBY FALETAU - 6ft 2in; 17st 4lb; 13 caps 7. SAM WARBURTON - 6ft 2in; 16st 3lb; 25 caps 6. DAN LYDIATE - 6ft 4in; 17st 8lb; 21 caps 5. ALUN WYN JONES Alun Wyn Jones (born 19 September, 1985) is a Welsh rugby union footballer, currently playing for the Ospreys in the Celtic League. He has also played for the Welsh national team, and previously represented Wales at the under-21 level. - 6ft 5in; 18st 8lb; 59 caps 4. IAN EVANS - 6ft 8in; 18st 4lb; 19 caps 3. ADAM Adam, the first man, in the Bible
Adam (ăd`əm), [Heb.,=man], in the Bible, the first man. In the Book of Genesis, God creates humankind in his image as a species of male and female, giving them dominion over other life. JONES - 6ft 0in; 18st 12lb; 77 caps 2. MATTHEW REES - 6ft 0in; 17st 2lb; 48 caps 1. GETHIN JENKINS - 6ft 2in; 18st 8lb; 84 caps AVERAGE HEIGHT: 6ft 3in AVERAGE WEIGHT: 16st 10in AVERAGE CAPS: 35.6 ENGLAND 15. BEN FODEN - 6ft 0in; 14st 9lb; 24 caps 14. CHRIS ASHTON - 6ft 0in; 14st 6lb; 20 caps 13. MANU TUILAGI - 6ft 1in; 17st 8lb; 7 caps 12. OWEN FARRELL - 6ft 2in; 15st 1lb; 2 caps 11. DAVID STRETTLE - 6ft 1in; 13st 9lb; 9 caps 10. CHARLIE HODGSON - 5ft 10in; 12st 12lb; 38 caps 9. BEN YOUNGS - 5ft 10in; 14st 6in; 19 caps 8. PHIL DOWSON - 6ft 3in; 17st 2lb; 2 caps 7. CHRIS ROBSHAW - 6ft 2in; 17st 4lb; 3 caps 6. TOM CROFT - 6ft 6in; 16st 7lb; 33 caps 5. TOM PALMER - 6ft 7in; 18st 3lb; 35 caps 4. MOURITZ BOTHA - 6ft 6in; 18st 1lb; 3 caps 3. DAN COLE - 6ft 2in; 18st 8lb; 25 caps 2. DYLAN HARTLEY - 6ft 1in; 17st 4in; 36 caps 1. ALEX CORBISIERO - 6ft 1in; 18st 8lb; 12 caps AVERAGE HEIGHT: 6ft 2in AVERAGE WEIGHT: 16st 4in AVERAGE CAPS: 17.8 * Source; WRU/RFU
* Attack coach Rob Howley * Top trumps cards of Wales stars Gethin Jenkins, Jamie Roberts and Adam Jones whose imposing physical presences help them make a mark on the rugby field