Transgender women will be excluded from playing against other adult women in contact rugby in Ireland, the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) announced on Wednesday.
The IRFU said the decision is based on “medical and scientific evidence and is in line with World Rugby guidance.”
A statement by the IRFU said: “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 the IRFU says 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.
The gender participation policy for rugby will take effect for the forthcoming season “in order to ensure fair competition and the safety of competitors”, the union said.
The IRFU acknowledged that there are two registered players affected by this change in Ireland, and 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 on-going 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.
In the statement the union said: “The IRFU 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.”
Meanwhile, Trans Equality Together has condemned the IRFU’s decision to ban trans women and girls over the age of 12 from playing contact rugby, and are calling on the IRFU to immediately pause this decision.
Moninne Griffith, chief executive officer of Belong To and co-director of Trans Equality Together, said: “This reactionary ban directly affects a very small number of trans players in Ireland, but it will have deep-reaching negative consequences across society.
“It is openly sending a message to trans people, their families and allies that they are not welcome in the rugby community. It is also setting a dangerous precedent for other Irish sporting organisations to follow their lead in banning trans players.
“We note the IRFU’s values include respect, integrity, and inclusivity – this decision flies in the face of these values.”
Tina Kolos Orban, chief executive officer of TENI and co-director of Trans Equality Together, said: “The IRFU’s decision follows England RFU’s same ban in recent weeks, a decision which was based on problematic UK-specific research with a number of unaddressed limitations.
“Ireland is not the UK, and any decision regarding trans players in Ireland should be based on Ireland-specific research which we are urging the IRFU to undertake.
“The trans community and the wider rugby community should be central to any decision being made regarding who can and cannot play, and we are calling on the IRFU to begin this consultation process. This blanket ban is a blunt tool that has not sought to understand the views of those affected by this move.”