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MH blows the whistle on Nigel Owens’ fitness secrets

Reffing the most international games in the sport’s history, Nigel Owens is considered one of the biggest names in rugby. Outspoken, genuine and no-nonsense, MH collared Owens, now 45, to blow the whistle on how he keeps up with players twenty years his junior.

Men's Health:On the pitch, you work very hard to keep up with the players. Do you have a fitness regime outside of the games?

Nigel Owens:Yes we do. We wear a GPS during the game, and the average distance we cover is more than most of the players. We usually cover the same average distance as a scrum half and a backrow would do. During the last game I refereed, I covered just short of 8km.

We train with a fitness coach at least three times a week, and I’ll do another two, maybe three sessions on my own as well. So it works out at about three cardio sessions a week. Maybe two of those would be hard running sessions and one off my feet, doing bike work and stuff like that. Another two or three sessions would be gym work. I need to be as fit as the players are. I'll be 46 in June, so it doesn’t get any easier!

(Related: the best training plan for your forties)

MH:How has your training changed as you entered your mid forties?

NO:There was a block, when I hit 35, when I could sense “Christ, I can’t train or recover as quickly as I could in my twenties.” So your training alters a bit. When I hit 45, I needed to adapt again because it becomes more difficult to train. I ref on a Saturday, do a running session on a Monday and then run again on a Wednesday. I need a break of 48 hours in between a running session and a game, so I’m probably more conscious now on the quality of my training than the quantity of it.

MH:It’s interesting that you have that gap to let your body recover, something that the players don’t necessarily have to do. Their gaps can be a little bit shorter.

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NO:Exactly. I might do short power work or strength work on the Thursday – but nothing too heavy on the legs, depending on where the game falls. So I’m on touch (helping the match referee by recording when the ball goes into touch) for the last round of the 6 Nations, so we will up the intensity and do three running sessions a week.

(Related: resting up? Here’s 8 ways to get more from your rest days)

MH:When players are facing you down over a ruling, that’s obviously a very intimidating thing to come up against, how do you keep your cool in that situation?

NO:In general, I feel like you don’t have that intimidation because players respect the ruling you’ve given. Some of them ask and when you explain to them the reason you gave them that decision, you tend to find the majority of them will accept that and respect your decisions. We maintain that level of respect, because the boundaries of respect are being pushed in society, and we want to maintain one of the fundamental values of the sport.

When things do get heated on the field, whether it’s a player getting a bit frustrated with the referee [which is rare, but it does happen] or when players get frustrated with each other, your job as a referee is to bring the temperature down and maintain your temperament. If you rise to the temperature of the game, it will rise even further.

(Related: is rugby becoming too dangerous?)

MH:A lot has been made of Italy’s unusual “no-ruck” tactics [refusing to engage in rucks, breaking the flow of the game] during the Six Nations this year. What was your take on that?

NO:We’re aware this tactic has been happening in New Zealand and a couple of teams have done it once or twice, but it’s never been seen to this level. So, it’s something within the laws of the game, but the lawmakers and the referees need to have a sit down and discuss how we’re going to deal with this in future.






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Date: 13.12.2018, 01:19 / Views: 62393