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Rugby league bans transgender players from women’s internationals

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Rugby league has banned transgender players from women’s international competition until further notice following global swimming’s decision to restrict trans athletes’ participation at the elite level.

The Kiwi Ferns and other international sides will not be allowed to choose transgender players for the women’s Rugby League World Cup in England in November. (File pic)
Photo: Photosport / Andrew Cornaga

The International Rugby League (IRL) said in a statement on Tuesday that it needed to further consult before finalising its transgender policy.

“Until further research is completed to enable the IRL to implement a formal transgender inclusion policy, male-to-female (trans women) players are unable to play in sanctioned women’s international rugby league matches,” it said.

“It is the IRL’s responsibility to balance the individual’s right to participate … against perceived risk to other participants and to ensure all are given a fair hearing.”

On Sunday, swimming’s world governing body FINA voted to restrict transgender athletes in elite women’s competitions and create a working group to establish an ‘open’ category for them in some events as part of its new policy.

That prompted other sports to review their policies on transgender athletes, including football and athletics.

FINA’s decision was slammed by transgender rights groups, while US football player Megan Rapinoe, a two-time World Cup winner and an Olympic gold medallist, said it was “disgusting”.

The starting point for the discussion should be inclusion and then work things out along the way, she told Time magazine.

“But we can’t start at the opposite. That is cruel.”

The IRL said it would work with the eight nations competing at the women’s Rugby League World Cup hosted by England in November to obtain data to inform a transgender policy in 2023.

“The IRL will continue to work towards developing a set of criteria, based on best possible evidence, which fairly balance the individual’s right to play with the safety of all participants,” the organisation said.

The ban is unlikely to affect many international players in women’s rugby league.

There are no transgender players competing at international level in the sport’s heavyweight nations – Australia and New Zealand.

The governing body of Australia’s domestic National Rugby League (NRL) competition declined to comment on the international ban and said it was still formulating its own transgender policy.

“The policy will be determined by the [NRL] Commission after all advice is carefully and sensibly considered,” an NRL spokesperson said.

New Zealand Rugby League was unable to make immediate comment when contacted by Reuters on Tuesday.

– Reuters

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