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RFU to vote on transgender participation in women's rugby

England RFU Training Session – Twickenham Stadium

The Rugby Football Union is to vote next week on recommendations that only females born as females be permitted to play the sport, the governing body has announced.


The recommendations have been made after the RFU conducted an extensive review of its gender participation policy for English domestic rugby.

The RFU says it received more than 11,000 responses to a game-wide survey on the matter and listened to a wide range of views, while also considering scientific evidence and guidance from other sporting bodies.

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A vote on the matter will be taken by the RFU Council on Friday, July 29 with a view to changing the policy ahead of the 2022-23 season.

A statement from the RFU said “science provides the basis of the recommendation that the inclusion of trans people assigned male at birth in female contact rugby cannot be balanced against considerations of safety and fairness”.

It added: “The recommendation is that until such time as new science is available, a precautionary approach is appropriate to ensure fair competition and safety of all competitors.

“This is a complex and difficult decision and the recommendation has not been made lightly or without thorough and full research and consultation.”


The RFU said that if the recommendation is not approved, then existing policy will remain in force.

The governing body added that it had contacted registered trans female players “to offer its support in continuing to encourage them to participate in the sport”.

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

“The RFU Council have been provided with access to medical, scientific and social information so that it can consider this recommendation and the merits of any alternative approaches, including a case-by-case approval process.


“However, the case-by-case assessment is not without difficulties and can result in players not being permitted to participate.

“In light of the research findings and work of World Rugby and the UK Sports Councils, and given the difficulties in identifying a credible test to assess physiological variables, it is recommended that this is no longer a viable option at this time and does not necessarily ensure inclusion.

“Therefore, the RFU Council will vote on a recommendation for a policy change for contact rugby to only permit players in the female category whose sex recorded at birth was female.

“In the male category, it is proposed that players whose sex recorded at birth is female may play if they provide their written consent and a risk assessment is carried out.”


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