Transgender women allowed to play in France The Times 18.05.21

The original article is here.

Transgender women will be permitted to play women’s competitive rugby in France next season, in contravention of recommendations from World Rugby on safety grounds. The French Rugby Federation (FFR) voted unanimously yesterday to allow transgender women to compete if they can certify that they have been having hormonal treatment for at least 12 months and do not exceed the testosterone threshold of five nanamoles per litre.

After examining the latest scientific research, World Rugby decided in October that transgender women retain significant advantages and that “safety and fairness cannot presently be assured for women competing against trans women in contact rugby”.

However the FFR has come to a different conclusion, underling the confusion across the game over the best approach to the issue. “Rugby is an inclusive, sharing sport, without distinction of sex, gender, origin or religion,” Serge Simon, the FFR vice-president, said. “The FFR is against all forms of discrimination and works daily to ensure that everyone can exercise their free will in rugby without constraint.”

The RFU drafted policy plans this year proposing that transgender women heavier than 14st 2lb or taller than 5ft 7in would be assessed individually by an RFU coach, with the aim of determining whether they had a “a material performance advantage” or posed “a safety risk to other participants”.

Kyle Eastmond, the former dual-code international, has announced his retirement after making only two appearances for Leeds Rhinos since returning to rugby league this season. Eastmond, 31, spent a decade playing rugby union before he left Leicester Tigers last summer, one of a group of players — Manu Tuilagi was another — who opted to leave rather than take a pay cut as the club came to terms with the financial implications of the pandemic.

Eastmond made his debut last month for the Rhinos, with whom he had agreed a two-year contract, more than a year after his final appearance for Leicester, but the length of time he spent away from competitive action had taken its toll.

“When we originally spoke to him, we had belief in his ability and talent and that remains the case,” Kevin Sinfield, the Rhinos’ director of rugby, said. “However after a year out of rugby due to the pandemic, he has found that he is unable to reach the standards he expects of himself in training and playing. The fact he had a contract for this year and next but decided to hang up his boots speaks volumes about his integrity.”

Primarily a half back in rugby league and a centre in union, Eastmond crossed codes to join Bath from St Helens in 2011, then spent time at Wasps and Leicester. He won six caps for England in the 15-a-side code, and his final international appearance was against South Africa at Twickenham in 2014.

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