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"The Referee" (Part 1)

By John Phillips
August 31 2019

"Mental Skill for Rugby Referee's"
By Dr Lewis J. O. McGill, School of Sport and Recreation, Southern Institute of Technology, Invercargill, New Zealand 

As with all successful performers rugby referees must prepare physically, psychologically and emotionally for each match. Sports officials like athletes attribute their success or failure to a range of factors. Attributions cover people's perception about causes of events. For a rugby referee the challenge is to oversee a game of two teams of fifteen players in which the players have the opportunity to perform at their best while providing an enjoyable experience for the spectators. Referees like other sports officials need to exert a degree of control over the game.

Rugby is a physical game with a high degree of physical contact. At elite levels of performance, rugby is played with high levels of emotion. It is the challenge of the referee to establish and maintain a setting in which the players are able to express their physical prowess and their emotions. 

There is just one referee on the field during the entire game. S/he is assisted by two linesmen whose responsibilities include indicating when either players or the ball travel out of play, indicate the success or otherwise of kicks at goal, and indicating to the referee when a major infringement of the rules has occurred. All actions of the linesmen are to considered by the referee as advice. The referee must make the decision as to what should be the consequent outcome. 

According to the official rules the referee has total control of the game. It can therefore be seen that rugby referees will be candidates for the full range of fears, uncertainties, highs, lows, and decision making dilemmas as players. Referees would also like to reproduce the successful performances and eliminate the unsuccessful. 

The developments within rugby in the past decade have catapulted the game well and truly away from the game as it began in the 19th century. Demands on players have increased. It is expected that they will act in a professional manner'. They must be physically fit and have a high level of skill competence. The large amounts of money which are now available to Unions through sponsorship deals and television rights has meant that some players are receiving relatively large salaries to play. Their income, and financial worth, are enhanced greatly when they are able to secure commercial endorsements.

 The players have agents, lawyers, personal trainers and other specialists to help them to both secure the best financial package and get themselves into the best physical shape to play the game. The 

unions are also having to deal with large amounts of money and have been forced to employ their own team of experts to help in all the administrative areas of presenting the game to the public. Rugby has joined the many sports which are now firmly within the gambit of the entertainment industry. 


A related development has been that of the professional rugby referee - a career that will last only while their legs can keep them up with the players on the field and they can cope with all of the pressures which come with what one referee has called … 'the best seat in the house'! 


What does a rugby referee do on the field?  

  • makes decisions

  • changes attentional focus 

  • control his reactions to what is going on 

  • predicts where the play will go 

  • deals with people

  • runs and runs and runs - making decisions all the while 


What attributes must s/he have? 

  • composure 

  • confidence 

  •  be prepared 

  • positive self-belief 

  • control arousal level 

  • ignore distractions 

  •  have rapport with players, linesmen and others 

  • be fair, consistent 

  • know rules 

  • deal with 'fear of failure' 

  •  be comfortable with being a success 

  • perform within the 'bubble' or 'cocoon'

  • be able to move on once a decision or action has taken place

 Video explaining The Referee's Signals - Nigel Owens: Referee's Signals

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"The Referee" (Part 1)
Discussion started by , 31/08/2019 12:08
31/08/2019 12:08
What do you think? You can have your say by posting below.
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14/09/2019 08:25
Not long to go now folks, sure you know the game and the signals?

At the bottom of the article is a link to a video of Nigel Owens explanation of the signals.


21/11/2019 10:37
you are all enjoying reading the articles in the "About Rugby" menu.

Here is the 1st of 2 articles about The Referee at the bottom is a video link to Nigel Owens' explanation of the referee's signals and why the penalty was given.

Enjoy, a light hearted approach but still factual


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