For those of you who are active on the field, we know that fitness and training is a key part of your refereeing. We’ve teamed up with expert strength and conditioning coach, Ross Hanbury to bring you some hints, tips, guidance and programmes to help you out. No matter whether you’re starting your career (and therefore identifying your training needs), or developing into a more seasoned pro, we’ve something to help you. There’s more on Ross at the bottom of the page.


The why!

In order to handle the physical demands of refereeing a game of rugby, the modern day referee must be physically fit. If a referee is unfit and not able to keep up with play; then it is unlikely that they will be in the right place at the right time to make the correct decision relating to the game.

‘Being fit allows you to focus on making the right decision and not how out of breath you are!’


With recent developments of global positioning system (GPS) technologies, we are now starting to get a bit more of an understanding of the physical demands at the elite level of our sport. A World Rugby study run by Matt Blair between 2009 and 2013 used GPS technologies to look at trying to quantify some of the physical demands placed on referees across 360 top level games.

The study showed that:

  1. Referees on average covered 6.8 kilometers in a game
  2. Of the 6.8 kilometers covered, 1.5 kilometers were covered at high intensity speeds (ie metres covered above 51% of each referees maximum speed.)
  3. Time spent running at high intensity speeds averaged 5.47 mins per game.
  4. Time spent above 80% of heart rate maximum (individualised to each referee) accounted for 43.43 mins in total.
  5. Referees on average performed 13 sprints a game ranging from 6 to 40 metres in distance.


Simplifying the World study findings we can say that the modern referee at any level of the game needs to have:

  • A high level of aerobic fitness/endurance
  • The ability to handle the high intensity running that occurs during the game


So what do I need to do?

Here’s a selection of resources you can use to kick-start, or develop, your training as a referee.

The YoYo Test

World Rugby, along with many world rugby Unions, Federations and Referee’s Societies use the ‘YOYO intermittent recovery test level 1″, to assess the fitness levels of its members across all levels.

The YoYo test is similar to the ‘bleep test’ requiring participants to run between two cones, each 20 metres apart. However the YoYo builds in a 10 second rest after the return 20 metre run. Just like the bleep test, the speed at which the 2 x 20 metre runs must be completed at increases progressively too, until the participant can no longer complete the runs or choose to stop. Here’s Ross showing how it’s done.

As you can hear (and see) the YoYo doesnt go from levels 1-22 like the bleep test. But don’t be fooled that it starts at L5.1 and jumps straight to speed 9 and then up to 11!

The YoYo better reflects and assess the physical demands of refereeing as it’s intermittent in nature (stop and start) which is similar to the sorts of activity you’d do refereeing a match. The test also provides you with a quantifiable insight as to how your fitness compares to other referees across the refereeing standards, including those at the international standard. The current (May 2017) World Rugby standard is level 18.1!  When you have your own benchmark, you can determine how much time you need to spend on extra fitness work, in line with your refereeing aspirations.

Download the YoYo test here

Or if you just want to listen to it…


Who’s Ross Hanbury?

Ross has worked in professional UK sport for over 10 years as a sport scientist and as strength and conditioning coach.
He has a Masters degree in sport and exercise science and is an accredited strength and conditioning coach with the UKSCA. Previous clients include Harlequins RFC, England Saxons, Charlton Athletic, Crystal Palace, UEFA and the British Triathlon Association.
Ross is currently working with leading sports training firm, Virgin Active, having previously been with the RFUW as strength and conditioning coach, working with the U20’s, 7’s and senior women squads.
But he’s also been supporting referees who clearly have different needs. He’s been leading the way with the London Society of Rugby Referees in the UK.
For those who want to take their training to the next level then get in touch with Ross here or via Twitter .