World Rugby will hold a forum before beginning a review of transgender policies ©Getty Images

World Rugby will host a forum next week before undertaking a comprehensive review and evidence-based commitment to policies related to transgender players.

The governing body says the forum will bring together independent experts and leaders in the fields of sports science, biology, medicine, ethics and law in London.

Rugby administration, medical and playing representatives will also be present.

World Rugby says discussions will take place on the current sporting and societal landscape, rugby’s mission and defining principles.

The governing body have asked elite players for their opinions via a questionnaire, which is hoped will build a representative view from the elite levels of the game.

World Rugby says the forum and subsequent review will reflect its mission of inclusivity while promoting player welfare.

“There is growing recognition of the importance of autonomy of gender identity in society and all sports are currently evaluating their policies to ensure that they are fit-for-purpose in the modern sporting and societal landscape,” said Sir Bill Beaumont, World Rugby chairman.

“Rugby is no different and this forum makes it possible to explore the best available evidence and hear the relevant expert opinions.

“World Rugby’s vision is ‘a sport for all, true to its values’ and we are committed to exploring the evidence from experts in the field of biology and medicine, together with insights provided by leading legal, ethical and social minds, to determine whether the current guidelines are appropriate for all participants.

“Importantly, we are undertaking an extensive consultation process that includes obtaining the perspectives of players who will be directly affected by this policy in both elite and community rugby.

“This is important in achieving transparency and buy-in.”

World Rugby’s current policy follows International Olympic Committee (IOC) regulations.

The IOC regulations state athletes who transition from male to female can compete in the women's events without requiring surgery, provided their total testosterone level in serum is kept below 10 nanomoles per litre.

World Athletics approved eligibility rules in October, which determined the concentration of testosterone in an athlete must be less than five nanomoles per litre continuously for a period of at least 12 months prior to being declared eligible.

Under the new regulations a transgender female athlete is no longer required to be recognised by law in her new gender but should provide a signed declaration that her gender identity is female.

World Athletics ratified changes to rulings on required testosterone levels for transgender female athletes in October ©IAAF
World Athletics ratified changes to rulings on required testosterone levels for transgender female athletes in October ©IAAF

World Athletics hosted a meeting of International Federation (IF) representatives in November, which determined the inclusion of transgender athletes "within the female category should be promoted with meaningful eligibility standards, provided it does not create intolerable unfairness".

The meeting, which included officials from the International Paralympic Committee, International Tennis Federation, World Rowing and the International Golf Federation, agreed it should be up to the respective IFs to design "sport-specific" rules on transgender athletes.

The International Cycling Union (UCI) approved new regulations earlier this month, which will come into effect on March 1.

World Rugby have said the latest research has suggested a reduction in testosterone does not lead to a proportionate reduction in strength and power.

The governing body says it is important for contact sports, such as rugby, to find an appropriate position for player welfare and risk.

“Sports organisations and the medical community alike appreciate that this is a complex area to negotiate. It is especially complex in a contact sport where size, strength and power can be influential,” said Éanna Falvey, World Rugby chief medical officer.

“By bringing together the world’s leading experts for the first time at our forum we will be able to consider all evidence, considerations and viewpoints as we move towards developing an updated policy that is proportional, appropriate and good for all.”

Doctor Araba Chintoh, chair of the transgender working group, added "The fundamental objective of the meeting is to understand the relevant expert and game opinions and understand how we can strike a balance between inclusivity and fairness in a rugby context.

"As a working group we will then consider the information and outcomes to help inform the development of guidelines that will specifically cater for the unique rugby environment.

“I would like to thank everyone for their full commitment to this important process."