- New fitness and GPS monitoring playing a central role in raising standards
- Players and Referees achieve similar aerobic results
The Rugby World Cup 2011 Match Officials have arrived in New Zealand and the group are in optimum physical condition thanks to an innovative physical monitoring and conditioning programme.
The initiative uses the latest fitness and GPS monitoring technology, housed within a vest worn over the shoulders, to record data on match days and within the training environment, including heart rate, distance covered, speed of movement, body load (work-rate) and field position data.
The referees also take part in extensive anaerobic assessments, overseen by Matt Blair, the IRB's Referee conditioning specialist. The collected data is then used to identify areas of improvement, as well as patterns or trends in physical performance and complemented by close monitoring of body composition, dimension and diet.
The 10 Referees selected for duty at Rugby’s showcase tournament undertook the rigorous programme, achieving aerobic results comparable to elite players and tailored to the demands of the modern Test match.
Rugby World Cup 2011 Referee Nigel Owens said: “Fitness is a key element of Refereeing performance. It reduces levels of fatigue, aids injury prevention and importantly enables us to make clear decisions under extreme physical exertion. The bar continues to be raised and as an elite Referee I have access to a robust system working with the IRB and the WRU that is tailored to my needs and is geared towards being in peak physical condition for the Rugby World Cup.”
IRB Referee Manager Paddy O’Brien said: “The whole area of sports science is constantly evolving and this is certainly being reflected in Rugby. Players across all positions are better conditioned and the ball is in play longer than ever before. Through constant monitoring of trends and tailoring programmes we have been able to provide our referees with a dedicated conditioning support structure that allows them to achieve optimal individual standards both on match days and in training sessions.”
"The Referees who have been selected for Rugby World Cup 2011 have achieved exceptional fitness standards. Conditioning is massively important, not just in terms of being prepared for all types of match environment, weather condition or altitude, but also to ensure that the referees are able to make clear decisions without being affected by fatigue as matches can swing on the smallest of margins."
Referees now cover up to eight kilometres and undertake a massive number of accelerations and decelerations during a typical Test match. Heart rates can be in the high intensity zone for up to 70 percent of total game time, which is comparable to all team sport players and officials.
With the ball in play for more time than ever before and players in all positions continuing to reach new standards of strength, power and endurance, the International Rugby Board and its Member Unions are committed to developing the programme which is geared towards the world’s top Referees being able to make correct decisions under intense physical and mental pressure.
O’Brien added: “We are already seeing the benefits of GPS technology in this important area. For the first time we have been able to monitor physical performance during a match and in training. It is the most accurate way to manage a referee’s physical levels and clearly identifies areas that require improvement, promoting consistency and also managing the welfare of the athlete to ensure that they physically prepare in the most effective way possible.”
"The modern Referee is an athlete and we are confident the processes that we have put in place working with our Member Unions mean that we have a panel of referees who are in the best possible physical shape.”
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