Luke Pearce on referee fitness - Ruck

Luke Pearce on referee fitness

Alongside our partners at ACME Whistles, we met up with RFU and World Rugby’s Luke Pearce to discuss his fitness regime and how the RFU, and the referees, have revolutionised their approach to strength and conditioning, training, and fitness.

Luke, who was one of the RFU representatives in France earlier this year, and is a regular in the premiership, outlined what his fitness programme looks like. He said:

“So I’ll take you through a normal premiership week.

“Our programme works on a three-weekly rotation. Week one would be Monday and Tuesday at Twickenham; the following week would be a Tuesday only; and the last week will be completely remote.

“Then we work our way back through week A, week B, week C – rinse and repeat.

“So on week A, when we’re in Twickenham for Monday and Tuesday, we’ll be training twice on a Monday with Alex in the gym.

“One of those will be a running session, and one would be a weight session.

“We then do the opposite on Tuesday morning so if we do upper body on Monday, it’ll be a leg session on Tuesday. Along with a bit of fitness as well.

“Wednesday I will normally train myself back in Exeter. I’ll do something, whether that be in the gym or a spin class.

“Thursday will be a tapering session, so I’ll still do something but it won’t be overly challenging. It’s just enough to keep me ticking over and that might even be with a game of golf in the afternoon if it’s dry enough.

“Friday just depends on where I am. So if I’ve got a Saturday game I may be off with the kids on the Friday and I may decide to just do a bit of a stretch or do a lightweight session.

“Game day is normally a Saturday.

“Sunday off.

“And then we go again.

“It normally involves probably five out of the seven days doing something. And then making sure that you’re fresh enough for game day.

“One thing I’m learning, slowly but surely as I approach 36 years, is making sure you don’t break. When I was in my 20s I could train as hard as I wanted. How many times I wanted. The older you get, you realise that you can’t go as hard at everything.

“It’s about making sure that you’re fit enough to do the job.”

The team went on to discuss how this has changed since Luke joined refereeing. He added:

“It’s totally different now. When I first started, about 13 years ago, we’d be in Twickenham once every three or four weeks for probably five or six hours. Back then we wouldn’t really have any structure to what we were doing.

“That then developed to going in maybe one day a week or one day every other week, then increased to two days a week. So the amount of support we get is completely different.”

“Another thing that is significantly different is our sessions. In reality, they are not hugely different in intensity, but they used to feel really, really hard, because our fitness levels used to be so much less.

“Now we’re all at a decent level of fitness, while we’re still blowing at the end of the session, we can comfortably manage it. Maybe 9-10 years ago we were really struggling and we’d pick up a lot of injuries and a lot of niggles.

“That’s all credit to Alex.

“The job of a referee is hard enough in terms of decision making and pressure. So making sure that the physical aspect of it is done and dusted way before match day has made a huge difference.”

We explored refereeing benefits of this improved fitness in referees more with Luke, asking about how in his experience it has improved him as a referee. He added:

“It massively helps with the decision-making process.

“One thing I was always taught, from when I first started, is try not to lose sight of the ball.

“If you lose sight of the ball and something happens, your accuracy of the decisions will be way down.

“You learn techniques as you get more experience, one of which is to follow the ‘nines’ around the park a bit more.

“Also within your match prep you’ll see which way teams will go primarily, and which way they play, what they do off line-outs, what they do off kick-offs, off restarts. So you try to incorporate that into your movement patterns to make sure that you’re in the best position possible.

“The in-goal area is a classic one. I think where we did really well in the World Cup, was that we, as referees, got in really good positions to make decisions on held up, or giving a try, live rather than wasting time to check the TMO.

“I think that people, players and fans, are way more accepting of decisions when we’re clearly in the right position.

“If you get caught half a second out of position you know you’re going to have to stop the game and possibly check with the TMO, which is fine if it happens once, maybe twice, but then we have issues with the flow of the game and it not being continuous enough.

“We will always be most effective when we’re in best position possible to make the best decision.”

To find out more about refereeing visit