Men who claim to be women will still be allowed to compete in women’s rugby at an elite level in England.
The Rugby Football Union (RFU) has refused to put in place the protections for women recommended by World Rugby, claiming it needed to see “further scientific evidence”.
Last week, the international governing body published new guidelines recommending that men should not be allowed to participate in women’s rugby at an elite level due to “safety and fairness” concerns.
The RFU said that it appreciated World Rugby’s work and would “assess the current evidence alongside safety concerns that have been raised”.
It continued: “The RFU is committed to LGBTQ+ inclusion as well as safety and fairness across all levels of the game.”
Its stance means that men will still be able to take part in women’s rugby at all levels, but will not be eligible for internationals as they are governed by World Rugby.
World Rugby acknowledged that, while it had considered the “available evidence” for its ban, national unions “will be able to exercise flexibility in their application based on national requirements”.
“Growing up male will give transgender athletes a lifelong edge that simply cannot be fully reversed by a period of testosterone suppression.”
But the decision was met with disappointment from women’s rights group Fair Play for Women. Spokeswoman Dr Nicola Williams said: “Everyone knows that in a rough sport like rugby it is dangerous for males to play against females, and if it’s not safe, it can never be fair either.
“The science is clear. Growing up male will give transgender athletes a lifelong edge that simply cannot be fully reversed by a period of testosterone suppression.”
She added: “World Rugby has put the safety of its professional female players first. If the RFU don’t do the same then thousands of amateur players will be left asking why they don’t deserve the same protections.”