The RFU Council has voted in favour of a change to its gender participation policy

Trans players banned from women’s contact rugby

Transgender women are no longer able to play female contact rugby in England.

The RFU Council has voted on updating the governing body’s gender participation policy, with 33 in favour, 26 against and two abstaining.

This means that from the start of the 2022-23 season women whose sex at birth was recorded as male can no longer play full-contact female rugby.

Previously, the RFU had assessed players on a case-by-case basis to determine whether they could play, with half-a-dozen trans players involved in women’s rugby across England last season.

However, following a “game-wide survey” and a review of “all available scientific evidence”, the RFU recommended a change in policy and this has now been ratified by the Council so trans players are banned from women’s contact rugby.

An RFU statement read: “The review and consultation concluded that detailed peer reviewed research provides evidence that there are physical differences between those people whose sex originally recorded as male and those as female at birth, and advantages in strength, stamina and physique brought about by testosterone and male puberty are significant and retained even after testosterone suppression.

“This science provides the basis of the new gender participation policy that concludes the inclusion of trans people originally recorded male at birth in female contact rugby cannot be balanced against considerations of safety and fairness.”

Those who have transitioned from female to male will be able to play providing they give written consent and a risk assessment is carried out.

The RFU, who has said it favours a “precautionary approach”, has been criticised for going against rugby’s values of inclusion and being a ‘sport for all shapes and sizes’.

Julie Curtiss, one of the trans women who has been registered to play in England and will no longer be able to do so, told The Telegraph: “They have missed a one-time only opportunity to demonstrate their genuine commitment to diversity in the sport. They have refused to engage with a minority group to try to find a way to expand the game into new areas.”

RFU President Jeff Blackett said: “I would like to thank everyone for the passion, time and effort that has been put in to consulting with us and informing this policy review.

“Inclusion is at the heart of rugby values and we will continue to work with everyone to keep listening, learning and finding ways to demonstrate there is a place for everyone in our game.

“We know that many will be disappointed by this decision, however it has been based on all the scientific evidence available. Our game can be strengthened by everyone who is involved, be it in coaching, refereeing, administration or supporting and playing non-contact forms of the game.”

The RFU says it has been in touch with the players this decision affects to encourage them to continue participating in the sport, whether in non-contact formats or through coaching, refereeing, volunteering and so on.

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