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Rugby Sevens Referees Physical Fitness And Performance

Are you fit enough to be one of the best match official in rugby? Join us to discover what makes a good referee in rugby sevens by Colonel (CD) Assoc. Prof. Dr. Mohamad Nizam Bin Nazarudin, World Rugby Match Official Educator /Universiti Malaysia Sabah Senior Lecturer.


As team sports descend deeper into the professional era, players are becoming fitter, faster, more powerful and cynical with regard to the laws of the game.

Thus, the pressure on sports officials to produce flawless performance is increasing and with media pundits attempting to create controversy, the spotlight is often cast upon the match officials.

Colonel (CD) Assoc. Prof. Dr. Mohamad Nizam Bin Nazarudin is a World Rugby Match Official Educator & Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) Senior Lecturer

Their performance is critical and not only is match officials responsible for maintaining a safe environment, but they are also expected to ensure that the game’s result is just. The fact that the match official cannot be replaced when exhausted during a match contributes to his increased stress level.

Following this, a match official’s assignments and mistakes can lead to loss of confidence, high anxiety levels and further increased levels of stress on the match official.

Physical Fitness Demand

Match officials need to be physically fit to keep up with the intensity of play and also be able to apply the laws of the game accurately. Inaccurate decision-making by rugby union match officials can change the course of a game, and may even lead to significant financial implications for the clubs, players and coaches.

During a match, match officials need to be in a position on the field which allows them to make the correct interpretation or decision, thus placing demands on their fitness.

World Rugby has put an international test battery in place and it is required that all match officials need to successfully complete this test battery throughout the year to show the necessary fitness levels to match official the games.

The test battery consists of anaerobic (in the absence of oxygen) and aerobic (in the presence of oxygen) fitness tests. If match officials do not perform well during matches, their poor performance (assessed by an appointed performance reviewer) has significant implications for them (e.g. Lose position on panels or can be withdrawn from future games).

According to the statistics from World Rugby Sevens Series Championships that showed the rate of try done is every 73 seconds while a total of 87% of the match won by the team that does a lot of try. A total of 42% try is from their half and 57% are from three or less passing. Only 3.2 scrums and 2.6 lineouts average per games.

These statistics show that each team in seven a side match will try make a try without doing a lot of stoppages. The players certainly have a wider space to make a run and need speed to defeat the opponent. Based on the description of statistical activities rugby seven match above, high performance match official should be able to control the match. Rugby match official also like other sports, should give a level of control over the game.


Match official must also be in the best position to observe the game. According to previous study, match officials rugby sevens covered an average distance of 1.7km per game (15 minutes). Over this distance, 22.3% was spent standing and walking, 25.9% jogging, 12.4%  cruising, 23.8% striding, 8% high-intensity running and 7.6% sprinting.

Minimum qualifying level fitness test 20 Meter Multistage Shuttle Run for match official Rugby seven was raised from level to level 10.0 to 12.5 because of changes in the pattern of rugby seven nowadays. This shows that physical fitness factors need to be taken into account.  Match official are now training more like players throughout the week, mixing in strength training, running, referee skills and other items to help them prepare for matches. Having the endurance to be present and ready to make the tight call in those big matches has become imperative. Being fit is a controllable responsibility belonging solely to the referee.

This new focus on fitness is another reason players are making the jump to match officiating, as they find some of the same challenges they faced as a player. They can stay fit, stay on the field and contribute to the success of a rugby match after they have finished their playing careers.

Being fit and focused to make clear calls will ultimately lead to good performances, which in turn builds one’s self-esteem and confidence levels. There are amazing opportunities for a fit, confident match official that has fun and helps to make the game fair and safe for the players.


Nazarudin, M. N., Abdullah, M. R., Parnabas, V., Abdullah, N. M., & Maliki, A. B. H. M. (2017). Investigating the relationship between Malaysian rugby sevens match officials physical fitness and performance. Journal of Fundamental and Applied Sciences9(2S), 824-841.

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