Rugby Football Union rejects ban on trans women and reiterates commitment to LGBT+ players in blow to World Rugby

People playing rugby

Trans women can still play rugby union on women’s teams in England after the Rugby Football Union (RFU) announced it will not be adopting World Rugby’s controversial ban.

World Rugby announced its new trans-exclusionary policy on Friday (October 9), claiming that allowing trans women to play rugby would pose a safety risk to cisgender women. Meanwhile, trans men can continue to play on men’s teams as long as they accept a greater risk of injury in doing so.

The policy made World Rugby the first global sport governing body to issue a blanket ban on trans women — news that came as a devastating blow to LGBT+ players.

Thankfully these rules will not apply in England after the RFU positioned itself at odds with World Rugby by suggesting that both further scientific evidence and less restrictive measures are required.

In a statement to The Guardian on Wednesday (October 14), the governing body for England said: “The RFU would like to thank World Rugby for the work it has undertaken on this complex subject which invokes many strong opinions.

“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.”

It continued: “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 RFU’s decision means that trans women will still be allowed to play women’s rugby at all non-international levels of the game in England for the foreseeable future, provided their concentration of testosterone in serum has been less than 5 nmol/L continuously for at least 12 months.

This position is supported by a number of other countries, including the US and Canada.

However, they will no longer be eligible for selection for the Olympics or the Six Nations, as these competitions are governed by World Rugby rules.