The Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) will amend its gender participation policy for rugby from the forthcoming season, based on medical and scientific evidence and in line with World Rugby guidance.
In a statement released today, the IRFU said it is keenly aware that this is a sensitive and challenging area for those involved and the wider LGBT+ community and will continue to work with those impacted, providing support to ensure their ongoing involvement with the game.
Recent 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 new policy, which is in line with that of World Rugby, the RFU and other governing bodies, will mean that contact rugby for players in the female category is limited to those whose sex was recorded as female at birth. There are two registered players affected in Ireland by this change and the IRFU has discussed the matter directly with them, including options to remain active in the game, such as non-contact playing formats (tag/touch rugby), refereeing, coaching and volunteering , underlining that the IRFU values their ongoing involvement in the game.
In the male category, players whose sex is recorded at birth as female may continue to play if they provide written consent and a risk assessment is carried out. The IRFU has spoken to players we are permitted to contact directly and will work with them to support ongoing participation in the sport.
Anne Marie Hughes, Spirit of Rugby manager, who has worked on policy development in this area since 2014, said: “The IRFU is committed to inclusivity and has worked with the players and other groups in the LGBT+ community to explain that this change is based solely on new research related to safety. This is a particularly sensitive area, and it is important that respect is shown to all members of our rugby family and the wider community.
“We will continue to work to be as inclusive as we can be and to explore areas such as tag and touch rugby, which we know some of our players are already considering, refereeing, volunteering and coaching.
“We continue to stand with the LGBT+ community and while we accept that today some may feel disappointed in this decision, we want to again underline to them that there is a place for everyone in rugby and we can all work together.”
The IRFU said it is committed to engaging with World Rugby and other organizations to further explore options to allow wider participation in contact rugby, and is committed to the ongoing review of the policy as new evidence, research and insights become available.
The full IRFU Transgender Guidance document and a list of FAQs are available on irishrugby.ie.