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Rugby Virginia Position Statement on Mixed Gender Contact Rugby

September 2009

No girls/women shall play on a boys/men contact rugby team, and no boys/men shall play on a girls/women contact rugby team.  Both of these restrictions shall be in force for contact rugby teams involving boys/men and girls/women age 11 and older.  These restrictions shall not be applied to non-contact coed rugby games involving players of any age.


Background Information on Girls HS/U19 Rugby in Rugby Virginia

Girls want to play rugby.  Unfortunately, there were, in general, an insufficient number of girls to form their own team in most communities.  Additionally, the girls lived far enough apart that it was difficult to assemble these girls for practice and games.  To be sure, there were and are a few teams in the Potomac Rugby Union who have been successful in attracting sufficient girls to form a team.  But in general, girls wanting to play rugby had to play on boys teams.  This has been true for high school teams and youth teams.  The discussion which follows shall reference only boys/girls as there are sufficient men/women teams that players past the age of high school graduation can find a team of their own gender, though the restriction stated above applies to college and senior teams.

The boys’ high school teams, coaches, and players accommodated these girls and integrated them into the team.  In most cases, perhaps all cases, these girls played on the B side and below.  The youth teams also integrated the girls into the team, and probably because of nature of the physical development of boys and girls from ages 12-16, the girls were more capable of playing evenly with the boys than they were on high school teams.  To date, this has presented no problems.

The International Rugby Board (IRB) published a statement that reads “[T]he Council, at its Interim Meeting on 18th November 2004, agreed that a guideline be circulated to all Unions indicating that the cut off point for mixed gender rugby should be from twelve years of age onwards.”

While USA Rugby generally conforms to IRB guidelines, there have not been firm and consistent statements from USA Rugby (to include board of directors, executive committee, and various youth and high school committees) that affirm the IRB statement.

There are two general views on increasing the participation of girls playing contact rugby, both youth and high school age.  One view holds that girls will be more inclined to play on all-girls teams, and teams should endeavour to create all-girls teams.  The other view, realizing the difficulty in attracting girls to rugby, holds that girls can play successfully and safely with boys.

This last point – safely play with boys – is the crux of the debate on girls playing contact rugby with boys.  To date, in Virginia and elsewhere, girls have not been injured to the extent that any danger has been made obvious.  On the one hand, this is evidence that the prohibition against girls playing with boys is overly conservative.  On the other hand, it merely says that so far, we have not had any problems.  It is the potential for problems that presents the concern.  Inasmuch as girls and parents are fully aware of what they’re getting into, and that they have signed the USA Rugby CIPP waiver of liability, the possibility remains for a seminal accident to happen that would certainly mean the end of girls playing with boys, not to mention huge legal problems for the rugby governing body that found itself in the chain of responsibility.