World Rugby announced last week that transgender women could no longer play elite rugby in what was the first major decision among sport’s elite international governing bodies, which arrived to much division. The decision means that transgender women can no longer compete in the Six Nations, World Cup or Olympic Games.
But the RFU has confirmed that it will not adopt that view until further investigation has been carried out, and has given the green light for transgender women to play women’s rugby union across all levels in England.
An RFU spokesperson told The Guardian: “The RFU does not currently plan to adopt World Rugby transgender guidelines as it believes further scientific evidence is required alongside detailed consideration of less restrictive measures in relation to the eligibility of transgender players.
“We will assess the current evidence alongside safety concerns that have been raised. The RFU will also undertake further consultation with players in the women’s game to understand their views. The RFU is committed to LGBTQ+ inclusion as well as safety and fairness across all levels of the game.”
The subject is one of the most decisive currently being discussed in the sport, given the risk that comes with allowing transgender women play in the women’s game. World Rugby initially began discussing the topic two years ago, before an eight-month review ruled last week that trans women could no longer be allowed to compete at elite level.
It’s understood that the RFU is one of many countries with the same viewpoint that more examination needs to be carried out before a blanket ban can be implemented.
Under the RFU’s current regulations, transgender women can play women’s rugby is their concentration of testosterone in serum has been less than 5nmol/L for at least the last 12 months.
Women’s right campaign and consultancy group Fair Play for Women condemned the move, accusing the RFU of “abandoning women” by not following in World Rugby’s lead.
It said: “World Rugby has put the safety of its professional female players first. If the RFU don’t do the same then thousands of amateur players will be left asking why they don’t deserve the same protections.”
Spokeswoman Nicola Williams added: “Everyone knows that in a rough sport like rugby it is dangerous for males to play against females. And if it’s not safe, it can never be fair either. The science is clear. Growing up male will give transgender athletes a lifelong edge that simply cannot be fully reversed by a period of testosterone suppression.
“Sport must be inclusive of everyone, but the sports categories can’t be,” she added. “The category for the female sex was invented so women and girls could be included in sport. World Rugby has put the safety of its professional female players first. If the RFU don’t do the same then thousands of amateur players will be left asking why they don’t deserve the same protections.”