WRU Referees train at UWTSD’s High Performance Lab


Two of the Welsh Rugby Union’s top referees – Nigel Owens and Craig Evans  - recently visited the University of Wales Trinity Saint David’s High Performance Lab for some intensive fitness testing with physiologist Dr Peter Herbert.

Based on the University’s campus in Carmarthen, the High Performance Lab offers a full range of fitness assessments, enabling athletes to develop more effective training and performance strategies.

Under the supervision of Dr Peter Herbert, both Nigel and Craig were put through their paces, with Peter measuring different aspects of their fitness, undertaking VO2max testing; anaerobic power analysis and body composition checks.

“It’s great to come to the University and to work with Dr Peter Herbert,” says Steve Pledger, who’s responsible for the WRU referees’ strength and conditioning.

“During the Six Nations, the WRU’s Centre of Excellence is so busy with the Senior team, the Women’s team and the Under 20s team all training there so we’ve decided to go off site for a few sessions, mixing it up fort the boys, keeping it fresh. 

“Obviously the lab here at UWTSD is top quality so we thought it would a very good opportunity to come down and get some gold standard testing done.

“We’ve done a good batch of testing here – aerobic capacity testing, body compositions, body power and reactions as well, so it’s about looking at those results, seeing if the referees are off the pace in any one of those areas and putting appropriate strategies in place if any areas are deficient.

“They’ve certainly enjoyed being at the University and having a fresh change of scenery has definitely helped them."

Nigel Owens and Peter Herbert    Nigel Owens and Craig Evans

Nigel Owens MBE, recipient of the 2015 World Referee Award and Wales’ most capped official, was also delighted to be at the University, training so close to his Gwendraeth Valley home.

“It was a really good session and it was very beneficial to be working with Peter Herbert, he’s so experienced.  It’s been great to come to Carmarthen and to do this type of testing.  It’s also been nice to have the opportunity to come to somewhere else and do a different type of training – and it’s also much closer to home – which is marvellous!”

Leading the testing was UWTSD lecturer Dr Peter Herbert - a highly experienced physiologist and a former Strength and Conditioning coach with the Scarlets and the Wales national rugby team.  

Dr Peter Herbert has a wealth of knowledge and experience of working with sportspeople of all ages from a wide range of disciplines and has recently established a Centre for Health and Ageing, linked to the University’s School of Sport, Health and Outdoor Education in Carmarthen.

“It’s just as important to the referees as it is to the players that they maintain or achieve the highest possible fitness level they can.  It’s absolutely essential that top level referees have top levels of fitness.

“During the session we did some aerobic testing, which considering they’ve got to run around for 80 mins of the game and not get fatigued, is vital. It’s well documented that fatigue can affect decision making, so the fitter the referees are the less likely that judgements are affected. It was important to measure their VO2Max scores, as well as assessing leg power, which is important for agility and speed off the mark, as arriving quickly to the action is an important part of making correct decisions.  We looked at body composition too and again this is absolutely crucial,” continues Dr Herbert.

The high performance testing that the referees undertook included measuring their body’s ability to produce energy using aerobic pathways (VO2max); measuring their maximal power to determine whether they need to develop strength and speed as well as looking at their fatigue index. Dr Herbert also looked at body composition in order to accurately determine the ratios of lean tissue to fat mass distribution.

“Body fat is particularly detrimental to running performance, so high activity levels and sensible nutrition is as important to the referees as it is to the players, if they are looking for optimal performance,” adds Peter.

For further information about the University’s High Performance Laboratory, please contact Peter Herbert p.herbert@uwtsd.ac.uk

Further Information

  1. For further information, please contact Sian-Elin Davies by emailing sian-elin.davies@uwtsd.ac.uk / 01267 676908 / 07449 998476