IRFU bans trans women and trans girls aged over 12 from female contact rugby

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Irish Rugby IRFU Lansdowne Road Aviva Stadium Dublin
The rugby organisation said that two registered players are affected by the decision. Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

The Irish Rugby Football Union has announced that it is to ban trans women and girls over the age of 12 from playing female contact rugby, in a decision that has been met with criticism from trans rights groups.

The rugby organisation said that two registered players are affected by the decision, which is to come into effect in the forthcoming season.

The Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) said in a statement: “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.”

Outlining its reasoning for the decision, the statement 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 organisation said it is in contact with the players affected and that trans men can continue to play rugby if written consent is provided and a risk assessment is carried out.

“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 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.

“The IRFU has spoken to players we are permitted to contact directly and will work with them to support on-going participation in the sport.”

The 20-member strong trans rights coalition Trans Equality Together condemned the policy change, and called on the IRFU to immediately pause its “damaging” decision.

Moninne Griffith, chief executive of Belong To and co-director of Trans Equality Together, said the decision would 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.”

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