Find out what makes referee Wayne Barnes tick off the field

Do you have any nicknames?

At uni I was known as ‘Wurzel’ as I’m from the West Country. Whenever I warm up and hear, “Hey, Wurzel!” I know an old uni mate is in the crowd.

What position did you play then? 


I was a non-tackling back-row. I was inspired to try and make big hits but really, at 6ft 3in and 90kg (14st 2lb), I was there to be used in the lineout.

What’s your guilty pleasure?

The biggest one is musicals. I love West End shows. So does Mike Catt. When he was at the RFU and we were both at an event, you’d find us in a corner practicing a number from Les Mis or something.

Who’d be your dream three dinner party guests?

I’d say Michael Ball or Alfie Boe, whoever is free on the night, for the entertainment factor. Barack Obama, to find out what the last eight years have been like. Then I’d invite someone for my wife Holly to talk to as she hates musicals but likes fashion, like Victoria Beckham.

Alfie Boe

In the spotlight: Alfie Boe on the West End stage with Katherine Jenkins. Photo: Getty Images

Do you have any bugbears?

Firstly, whistling – and this is from a ref! When someone walks past whistling, it’s like they are saying: “I am much happier than you are.” And the other thing is litter.

Are you busy off the field?

I still work as a barrister specialising in bribery and corruption, and actually another thing I dislike is people running in a suit – for a train or something like that. You’re not James Bond! I work every week, with the number of days depending on my rugby commitments.

Who’s the funniest official?

We’re a close bunch – Nigel Owens, myself and Craig Joubert all came through the sevens together. The public don’t get to know the refs like we do and the likes of Romain Poite and George Clancy have a really great sense of humour – and are fantastic in the referees’ court session!

Nigel Owens

Funny man: Nigel Owens chats to Ireland’s fly-half Johnny Sexton. Photo: Getty Images

Do you have any phobias?

I’m petrified of heights and our offices are on 
the 25th floor of the Shard!

What’s the funniest thing seen on the pitch?

Once, at Leicester, a spectator had had a few too many and ran on the pitch. Tom Croft came up to me and said: “Barnesy, you’ve got to stop bringing your family to games.”

What’s your most embarrassing moment?

I once got smashed by Ian Keatley of Munster. He almost took my head off. It got a big cheer from the crowd.

If you could be anyone in rugby, who would it be?

If you look at the young refs now, someone like Craig Maxwell-Keys is fit as a fiddle without having to train very hard. As for players, I’ve always had a soft spot for the front row. Maybe Richard Hibbard. He’s a nice guy, a pretty talented player and he has those long flowing locks!

Richard Hibbard

Blond ambition: Richard Hibbard in the thick of it for Gloucester. Photo: Getty Images

What’s the worst job you’ve had?

There used to be a factory in the Forest of Dean where they made Ribena. I used to squash the berries into a pulp. It was shift work and if you went in after a few the night before, you’d get the fumes from the berries…

What are your goals away from rugby?

I’ve always wanted to play the piano properly. I can read a bit of sheet music, but I’d love to sit down at the end of a night out and spark up Sweet Caroline.

How would you like to be remembered?

I don’t think refs need to be remembered, just respected by peers. We’re not there to be popular. I try to communicate as much as I can on the pitch. Hopefully I’d be respected by players too.

This article first appeared in the March 2017 issue of Rugby World. For the latest subscription offers, click here.