No rest for ref as World Cup looms on horizon
GWENDRAETH Valley hero Nigel Owens has opened up on the fitness testing the 12 World Cup referees will undergo this summer.
The referees face some stern tests to make sure they are fit enough for the Japan tournament.
While Alun Wyn Jones and his Welsh Grand Slam-winning squad sweat it out at training camps in the Swiss Alps and Turkey, the World Cup officials will have their own All Blacks-style endurance examination.
Wales’s 2015 World Cup final referee will join the likes of Wayne Barnes, Jerome Garces and Romain Poite in undergoing yo-yo tests.
The tests are similar to the bleep test and a stamina gauge used by the New Zealand rugby team.
Mr Owens, from Mynyddcerrig, only drew the curtain on the 2018/19 season on Sunday when taking charge of the England XV victory over the Barbarians at Twickenham. And he revealed the World Cup refs now face their fitness exam in the next six weeks before preparations for Japan ramp up in earnest.
He told the Brian Moore Full Contact podcast: “We have a three or four-day World Cup referees camp in July out in Japan, but we’ve got fitness testing to be done in the next six weeks. The yo-yo testing is seen as more game related given you have walking recovery periods before you go again. That’s what we’re going to have to do leading into the World Cup. I’ll try my best (to pass them) but it’s getting harder at my age.”
It means one of the top referees in the global game will have little time to relax this summer before heading off to what is set to be his World Cup swansong.
“I’m going to have a week’s downtime but I’ll also need to keep training because we’re back up and running in five or six weeks’ time,” he added.
“There’s very, very little downtime for the referees. I just finished on Sunday and a lot of the players finished on the weekend as well. My next game will be when I fly out to Fiji on July 27 or 28 to referee them for two weeks. Then I go to referee France-Scotland in Paris, then I go up to Edinburgh to run the touchline for ScotlandFrance. Then 10 days after that I will be flying out to the World Cup.”
The yo-yo test was developed by Danish football physiologist Jens Bangsbo and involves beginners and advanced levels. The 12 referees will be required to run between two cones, each 20 metres apart. However, the yo-yo builds in a 10 second rest after the return 20 metre run.
Just like the bleep test, the speed at which the 2x20 metre runs must be completed increases progressively, too, until the participant can no longer complete the runs or chooses to stop.
The World Rugby standard for referees in the yo-yo tests back in 2017 was 18.1 which equates to getting through a high intensity 80 minutes of rugby, with some gas left in the tank.
Referees are said to cover 6.8km of ground on average during a game with 1.5km of that run at high intensity speeds.
Mr Owens has been selected to officiate at his fourth consecutive Rugby World Cup. The 47-year-old is one of 12 referees chosen to take charge of matches at this autumn’s global tournament.
Speaking last month, he said gaining selection for the tournament was a big goal for him and he would then decide after the competition how much longer to continue refereeing before retiring.
Nigel Owens is getting ready for the Rugby World Cup.