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Leeds Rhinos Rugby League sponsored Research Studentship in collaboration with Leeds Beckett University: Full-Time PhD Studentship Starting February 2021

The School of Sport

About the Project

Full-time Sponsored Postgraduate Research Studentship - start date February 2021

The PhD studentship will have a bursary of £15,285 per annum (pro-rata into 12 monthly payments) plus UK/EU Fees paid initially for a period of three years.

Leeds Beckett University and Leeds Rhinos Rugby League club are looking to recruit a highly motivated individual to join the embedded research team at Leeds Rhinos Rugby League club.

The Carnegie School of Sport provides a vibrant and high quality research environment for postgraduate research students (as evident in the 2014 Research Excellent Framework). Our commitment to Sport research, education and knowledge exchange is evident in the University‘s £45 million investment in a world-class home for the Carnegie School of Sport. Partnerships with local sports teams are a cornerstone of our work and we are proud of our long-standing relationship with Leeds Rhinos. This project provides an exciting opportunity to be involved in supporting Leeds Rhinos Rugby League Club. The Carnegie Applied Rugby Research (CARR) centre within the School undertakes high quality applied research with international and national governing bodies, and a range of professional sports teams

Leeds Rhinos are the most successful rugby league club in the Super League era, having won the Super League five times, Challenge Cup three times, and World Club Challenge twice in the last ten years. Leeds Rhinos and Leeds Beckett University have a strong established relationship, with fourteen PhD studentships embedded within the club since 2014. Given the success of embedded research studentships, Leeds Rhinos are looking to invest in another PhD studentship. The successful candidates will be embedded within Leeds Rhinos working alongside research and performance staff.

The project
Skill and decision-making differences across the rugby league playing pathway during match play; implications for training practice design

(Supervisory Team; Professor Ben Jones)

Rugby league clubs operate U16 Scholarships and U19 Academy programmes to develop players for their first team. Whilst research exists on how academy and senior players differ based on their physical qualities[1] and the match characteristics,[2] limited research exists on the key skill and decision-making differences during match play.[3][4] These are arguably more important characteristics for players to be able to perform at a senior level.[5] Within a match, the duration of time players have to perform these skills, due to contextual factors may differ. This may sub-optimally prepare young players to perform essential skills under pressure, whilst making the correct decisions.

Coaches and practitioners design training practices to improve the short-, medium-, and long-term performance of players. Training practices should be based on desirable short-, medium-, and long-term objectives[6, 7], which require further investigation across the rugby league playing pathway.

The successful PhD candidate should design and implement a programme of innovative and impactful research, to understand how within-match skill and decision-making differ across the rugby league playing pathway, and how this can help inform training practice design at specific levels, improving player performance.

The successful candidate will be embedded within Leeds Rhinos providing Performance Analysis support and will work alongside Head of Performance Analysis James Bletsoe. The practical commitment will not exceed 15 hours per week, allowing the candidate to undertake innovative research, whilst developing an awareness of the practical requirements of rugby league. The successful candidate should have excellent data analytical skills to undertake this project and an interest in performance analysis and practical coaching. Previous experience in performance analysis would be advantageous.

How to apply
Applicants can discuss their proposals and the project with Professor Ben Jones () and James Bletsoe ()

The closing date for applications is midnight on 3rd January 2021
An application form and further details can be found here
For admission enquiries please contact the University Graduate School –

Funding Notes

A stipend of £15,285 per annum (pro-rata into 12 monthly payments) for three years
UK/EU Fees paid for a period of three years
A laptop will be provided and office space (subject to LBU COVID19 arrangements for return to campus) and the opportunity to apply for funding to support the research project


[1] Till K, Scantlebury S, Jones B. Anthropometric and Physical Qualities of Elite Male Youth Rugby League Players. Sports Med 2017; 47: 2171–2186.

[2] Whitehead S, Till K, Weaving D, et al. The Use of Microtechnology to Quantify the Peak Match Demands of the Football Codes: A Systematic Review. Sports Med 2018; 48: 2549–2575.

[3] Whitehead S, Till K, Jones B, et al. The use of technical-tactical and physical performance indicators to classify between levels of match-play in elite rugby league. Sci Med Footb 2020; 0: 1–7.

[4] Pearce LA, Leicht AS, Gómez-Ruano M-Á, et al. The type and variation of evasive manoeuvres during an attacking task differ across a rugby league development pathway. Int J Perform Anal Sport 2020; 20: 1134–1142.

[5] Woods CT, McKeown I, O’Sullivan M, et al. Theory to Practice: Performance Preparation Models in Contemporary High-Level Sport Guided by an Ecological Dynamics Framework. Sports Med - Open; 6. Epub ahead of print 14 August 2020. DOI: 10.1186/s40798-020-00268-5.

[6] Woods CT, McKeown I, Shuttleworth RJ, et al. Training programme designs in professional team sport: An ecological dynamics exemplar. Hum Mov Sci 2019; 66: 318–326.

[7] Vilar L, Araújo D, Davids K, et al. The role of ecological dynamics in analysing performance in team sports. Sports Med 2012; 42: 1–10.

[8] Speranza MJA, Gabbett TJ, Green DA, et al. An alternative test of tackling ability in rugby league players. Int J Sports Physiol Perform 2018; 13(3): 347-352.

[9] Gabbett TJ & Abertnethy B. Dual-task assessment of a sporting skill: influence of task complexity and relationship with competitive performances. J Sports Sci 2012; 30(16): 1735-1745.

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