This guideline considers the suitability of mixed gender teams and the circumstances where girls should be permitted to play contact Rugby with boys. The guideline takes under consideration the differences in physical and mental development of boys and girls at the different stages of progression through the established age-grade pathways within individual Unions.
World Rugby recognises the inherent differences across Unions world-wide and seeks to provide direction in the management of this issue for Member Unions. Member Unions are responsible for the development of their Union specific Policy.
This guideline applies to all levels of the game and should be used in conjunction with the World Rugby Age Differential Guideline where appropriate.
Best practise is for participation in mixed gender teams to be permitted only up until the end of the season (including the following off-season) in which the player turns 12 years of age.
In exceptional circumstances, a player over 12 years of age may play on a mixed gender team where no other option in continuing to play Rugby exists.
In order to ensure the suitability of players in such circumstances, the following criteria should be met:
- Written agreement from the player’s parents or guardians to play, and acceptance of the associated risk with playing with people who may be stronger and more physically developed than them
- Written confirmation from a medical practitioner with an understanding of the demands of Rugby to whom the player is known that the player is in a physical condition to play Rugby at the desired level and that this view is supported by a musculoskeletal evaluation and/or other appropriate assessments
- Written agreement from a medical officer with an understanding of the demands of Rugby employed or retained by the player’s home union that the player is in a physical condition to play Rugby at the desired level and that this view is supported by musculoskeletal evaluation and/or other appropriate assessments
- Written confirmation from a coach with an appropriate understanding of the physical attributes required and of the risks to players in Rugby and to whom the player is known that the player has the requisite skills and experience to play Rugby at the desired level.
- Such other consents, agreements or confirmations (if any) as may be required by the player’s home Union or to comply with the local jurisdiction.
- Because of the particular nature of the front row compared to other positions appropriate considerations must be given within the assessment protocols outlined above regarding whether or not the player should be permitted to play in the front row.
A player should not participate in mixed gender teams once they have reached the age of 15.
Players, irrespective of their age and gender, should be prepared in a manner to play the game safely and should have undertaken a safety awareness program such as Rugby Ready or the equivalent available within their home Union.
Player Development & Participation Considerations
While player welfare is the key consideration when putting policies in place for Unions regarding mixed gender contact Rugby, it is important to also approach this issue from a development and participation perspective. The following development considerations should be considered by Unions in developing age grade pathways for girls:
- Research indicates that girls prefer to play sports with girls mainly due to reasons related to social interaction. Girls are more likely to stay involved in the sport if given this opportunity throughout their development pathway.
- Girls under the age of 12 should not be discouraged from playing with boys but a girls-only option should be provided for them to attract the optimal number of girls into the Game.
- Any Mixed Gender Rugby policy implemented by Unions should be developed as part of a larger player pathway plan for girls and women's rugby. Long Term Player Development Models and research will assist with this process.
- Any instances where girls are permitted to play alongside boys due to lack of access to girls teams should be a short term solution and Unions should produce plans to ensure girls have access to single gender teams in their Unions.