06 April 2005
Twenty five year old Wayne Barnes has swapped his barrister's wig for a referee's whistle this month, becoming the RFU's sixth full time referee. In making the career change, Barnes, who specialised in Criminal Law in London, becomes the RFU's youngest ever full time elite referee. He started playing at the age of eight and first took up refereeing aged 15. He acknowledges his career move from the law to refereeing may be seen as unorthodox by some but he has no hesitation in making it.
"This is a wonderful opportunity for me to work with England's best referees who include some of the most impressive match officials on the international circuit. I have learned so much from them already and know I will continue to do so. This is a challenging job for anybody to undertake in the professional era. It offers an intensity and expectation and also immense satisfaction."
Barnes joins an impressive group of full time referees at the RFU, such as Chris White who refereed the recent Grand Slam victory for Wales in the RBS 6 Nations and Tony Spreadbury who refereed the quarter final New Zealand v South Africa match in the 2003 Rugby World Cup.
Barnes was identified as an outstanding refereeing prospect four years ago, aged just 21, when he became the youngest member of the National Panel of Referees. He first swapped his second row place for Bream RFC, in the Forrest of Dean, to start refereeing as a 15 year old, and as a student at the University of East Anglia he played on wednesdays and refereed on saturdays. He progressed rapidly through the refereeing ranks from then on, officiating this season in the Zurich Premiership, the Ireland A v France A match in Dublin in March and he is part of the international Sevens circuit.
Colin High, Manager of the RFU's Elite Referees unit has long been impressed by Barnes.
"Wayne's appointment will be a great boost to the elite game. It's encouraging to see somebody so young progress in the profession and his enthusiasm and cool head under pressure offer qualities that will stand him in good stead in the Guinness Premiership next season. His development will now continue under the expert one to one coaching he'll receive from the Elite Referee unit at the RFU.
"Working in collaboration with Premier Rugby Limited, our aim is ultimately to have eight full time elite referees. They will work in conjunction with the other professional referees involved in the elite game, in an effort to continually improve standards, consistency and reliability of officials operating in the Premiership and above. Wayne is a welcome addition to the RFU and we look forward to working with him."
Wayne Barnes is a match official in the European Challenge Shield this month and in June he represents the RFU in Argentina as a match official at the RWC U21 tournament