All Blacks S&C Coach Nic Gill Introduces The Bronco Test, The Running Drill The Team Has Been Using To Build Speed And Endurance For 14 Years

Beauden Barrett of the All Blacks runs through drills during a New Zealand All Blacks Training Session at FMG Stadium on September 01, 2022 in Hamilton, New Zealand
Beauden Barrett, center, holds the joint fastest Bronco test time, with 4min 12sec (Image credit: Hannah Peters / Getty Images)

Few fitness tests have a name as foreboding as the Bronco. That’s probably because few fitness tests put you flat on your back quite like the Bronco. 

It’s a series of shuttle runs completed as quickly as possible. To finish, you need to cover 1,200m while trying not to take your foot off the gas. 

For more than a decade, the rugby drill has also been used to test the fitness levels of the All Blacks—the three-time Rugby World Cup-winning New Zealand national team.

“The Bronco test is a good indicator of rugby fitness as it involves a lot of changing of direction—deceleration, turning, then acceleration,” says Nic Gill, the All Blacks head of strength and conditioning, and founder of coaching platform Rugby Ready

In other words, if you want to test whether you’re rugby-ready, this is a good place to start.

How To Do The Bronco Test

To take this test, find a space where you can run 60 meters in a straight line, then set up a start line with 20m, 40m and 60m markers. 

“The Bronco is a shuttle test,” says Gill. “It’s a 20m, 40m and 60m shuttle completed five times continuously. Aim to complete the 1.2km as fast as possible.”

In action, you’ll run to the 20m marker and back, then the 40m marker and back, and finally the 60m marker and back. That’s one round. Repeat this four more times without a break to finish. 

But for all its bravado, the Bronco is blissfully uncomplicated, making it an accessible training tool for any sports team in need of some extra conditioning work. 

“It’s short and can be conducted easily on any field, turf or surface,” says Gill. “It can be conducted during a rugby training session to assess the squad or as a conditioning stimulus.”

What is the best Bronco time?

In the 14-odd years the All Blacks have been using this drill, two players are tied for having the fastest time. Both fly-half Beauden Barrett and scrum-half Cam Roigard finished the test in 4min 12sec.

Three Training Tips To Become A Better Rugby Player

If you’re a rugby player looking to improve, Gill recommends concentrating on “the big three”.

“One: Be fit to get around the field to do your job accurately.” 

In other words, “you need a good Bronco”, and you also need to be able to keep moving for “60 to 80 minutes”.

More All Blacks’ Sessions

“Two: Be strong and mobile through your hips so you can get low to carry the ball or to tackle and clean out. You need a good squat for this.  

“And three: Have an awesome diet so you carry good lean muscle suitable for your position.”

But this doesn’t mean you should neglect the technical side of your game. 

“Bigger, faster and fitter does not automatically make you a better player,” Gill says, adding that most of the All Blacks split their training time roughly 60:40 between the field and their fitness. 

Harry Bullmore
Staff writer

Harry covers news, reviews and features for Coach, Fit&Well and Live Science. With over a decade of training experience, he has tried everything from powerlifting to gymnastics, cardio to CrossFit, all in a bid to find fun ways of building a healthy, functional body.