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Wayne Barnes – From the Rec to rugby grassroots

Wayne Barnes may have refereed his 150th Aviva Premiership Rugby match at the Rec on Friday night but he still had time to officiate at the other end of the spectrum on Sunday at the Land Rover Premiership Rugby Cup.

Launched during the 2008-09 season, the Land Rover Premiership Rugby Cup is the first national grassroots tournament officiated by Premiership Rugby.

Over 7,000 children take part in the festivals run by the 12 Premiership Rugby clubs, with 24 teams taking part in the Land Rover Premiership Rugby Cup Parade of Champions in front of a sell-out crowd at half-time at the Aviva Premiership Rugby Final at Twickenham on 30 May.

Barnes, who officiated over Bath Rugby’s 12-3 win over Sale Sharks two days earlier, said he enjoyed his day at Farnham Rugby Club refereeing the next generation of rugby stars.

"I was really impressed with the standard, it is great to see so many young lads out playing rugby," he said.

"It is a sport that we all love and cherish and the core values at grassroots are as important as at the top. There is a lot of good camaraderie, teamwork, respect and it is fantastic to see.

"What the kids need is the ability to go out and play and hopefully what we try and do, whether that’s down here at Farnham or at Premiership Rugby level, is to let the players play and express themselves.

"There was some great tackling between Farnham and Old Reigations and some of the defence was phenomenal."

Barnes was proud to become the third referee in Premiership Rugby history to officiate 150 matches, and was glad Friday's match was not as dramatic as his first.

"The Rec is a special place and it was a beautiful day on Friday," he added. "To hit 150 games shows you are getting a bit old but also I have some fantastic memories of those games. My first game was at the Rec as well, in 2003, so it was nice to come full circle.

"It was an interesting game, Bath versus Rotherham and two really strange events happened. One was a mass brawl and I thought I had taken charge of it as the crowd started to cheer but actually a streaker had run on to stop the game.

"Then the linesman told me to stop the game on the microphone, which usually means there’s a brawl, but there was an ambulance driving up the middle of the pitch as someone had taken ill in the stands. So it was definitely a memorable game!"
 

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