The aim of this study was to quantify movements of Super 12 rugby players in competition because information on elite rugby players' movements is unavailable. Players were categorized into forwards [front (n = 16) and back row (n = 15)] and backs [inside (n = 9) and outside backs (n = 7)] and their movements analysed by video-based time motion analysis. Movements were classified as rest (standing, walking and jogging) and work (striding, sprinting, static exertion, jumping, lifting or tackling). The total time, number and duration of individual activities were assessed, with differences between groups evaluated using independent sample t-tests (unequal variances), while differences between halves were assessed with paired sample t-tests. Forwards had 7:47 min:s (95% confidence limits: 6:39 to 8:55 min:s, P<0.01) more time in static exertion than backs, but backs spent 0:52 (0:34 to 1:09, P = 0.01) min:s more time sprinting than forwards, and had a 0.7 (0.3 to 1.2, P = 0.01) s longer duration of each sprint. Forwards spent 7:31 (5:55 to 9:08) min:s more time in work activities (P = 0.01) and had 2.1 (1.3 to 2.8) s longer work durations (P < 0.01) than backs. The results indicate frequent short duration (<4 s) work efforts followed by moderate duration (< 20 s) rest for forwards, and extended (> 100 s) rest duration for backs. High-intensity efforts involved static exertion for forwards (mean +/- standard deviation frequency = 80 +/- 17) and sprinting for backs (27 +/- 9). In conclusion, after nearly a decade since becoming professional, elite rugby union is still characterized by highly intense, intermittent movement patterns and marked differences in the competition demands of forwards and backs.