The IRFU have announced plans to amend its gender participation policy for the forthcoming season which will no longer permit transgender women to play contact female rugby in Ireland. This rule change will apply to players over the age of 12.
Earlier last month England's Rugby Football Union (RFU), the governing body of the union code in England, banned transgender women from competing in female-only forms of their games.
According to the IRFU, the policy is based on medical and scientific evidence and in line with World Rugby guidance. As such going forward for the upcoming new season, contact rugby for players in the female category will be limited to those whose ‘sex was recorded as female at birth’.
There are currently two registered players affected, in Ireland, by this change and the IRFU has discussed the matter directly with them.
Transgender men may continue to play male rugby once an appropriate risk assessment has been carried out by the IRFU with input from the player and his coach. There are understood to be around a dozen players in this category active in Ireland. For players aged 12-18, written consent must be provided by a parent or guardian.
“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 gender participation policy adds: “The nature of contact rugby means it is a highly gender-affected sport and one of the main reasons we have separated male and female categories. The term “gender-affected sport” relates to the differences in biological males and biological females, where averages in physical strength, power, stamina, speed and physique create a competitive disadvantage between the sexes.