English rugby referees learning French - Wayne Barnes

By Chris JonesBBC Radio 5 live rugby reporter
Wayne Barnes
International referee Wayne Barnes is also a qualified barrister

English rugby referees are taking French lessons in order to improve their communication skills during games, says top official Wayne Barnes.

There has been criticism by players of some Six Nations refereesexternal-link only being able to speak in English.

However, Barnes, 37, says RFU officials "want to be better communicators".

"We are not just training and reviewing, we are actually doing some French lessons as a group," he told the BBC Rugby Union Weekly podcast.

One of the world's leading referees, Barnes has been taking charge of international matches since 2006.

And while he argues that speaking a range of languages fluently is unfeasible for a referee, he feels steps can be taken to improve communication.

"If you take the Six Nations and the Rugby Championship, there is English, Italian, French and Spanish - and you could put in Welsh on top of that - it's quite difficult to cover them all," Barnes added.

"I try to use my French as much as I can, but I have had French captains ask me to speak in English because they will understand me better.

"The best referees can communicate with a nod and a wink, or one crisp, clear line - you don't have to go into too much detail."

Rugby Union Weekly was broadcast on BBC Radio 5 Live at 21:30 GMT on Monday, 6 February and the podcast is available here.

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