World Rugby held a landmark workshop to help develop a rugby-specific policy for transgender participation ©World Rugby

World Rugby held a landmark workshop to help develop an equitable, safe and evidence-based, rugby-specific policy for transgender participation.

Independent experts with differing views, from areas of performance, science, medicine, risk, law and socio-ethics, were invited to share their expertise, opinions and research at a two-day workshop in London.

Representatives from organisations such as International Gay Rugby, the Rugby Football Union and Fair Play for Women were also in attendance. 

While not a decision-making forum, the key considerations will be taken forward by a multi-disciplinary transgender participation working group, chaired by Araba Chintoh, a World Rugby executive leadership scholarship recipient, psychiatrist and former Canadian international. 

There were several key outcomes, with attendees agreeing on the main issues surrounding the physiological basis of performance differences between men and women.

They agreed that further consultation and research was required, particularly in the areas of specific injury risk, ethical considerations and performance. 

World Rugby also committed to explore further research to inform future guideline revision.

"This was an important and ground-breaking meeting that brought together leading experts with differing views to discuss and inform a way forward for rugby that promotes inclusivity, while prioritising safety of rugby participants," said Chintoh. 

"I would like to thank all attendees for their honest and important contributions, and for keeping an open mind. 

"The expert opinions have provided us with important guidance that will frame our decision-making regarding updated and fit-for-purpose policies."

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

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

"As the first of its kind, the workshop was a giant leap forward for rugby and significant in a wider sporting context," said World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont. 

"We explored the best available evidence and have heard the relevant independent expert opinions and I believe all delegates found it a stimulating and ground-breaking forum.

"It is now down to us, under the auspices of the working group, to take the information forward and inform our policy-making, and while this process will take time, we are committed to delivering a fit-for-purpose policy in the modern sporting and societal landscape, balancing inclusivity, while promoting fairness and welfare."