Poppy Cleall has criticised England Rugby’s decision to ban transgender women from playing in the sport.
Rugby Football Union (RFU) Council and Rugby Football League (RFL) Board have both approved changes to their respective gender participation policies.
The governing bodies have recommended that only players recorded as female at birth be allowed to compete in women’s rugby.
The RFU Council voted in favour of this yesterday, with 33 in favour, 26 against and two abstaining.
Its decision has sparked criticism from women’s rugby fans and players, including Cleall, who has appeared for England more than 50 times and was named the Women’s Six Nations Player of the Tournament last year.
“From one of the most inclusive sports to one of the least in 7 votes. 🤔,” the Saracens star said. She has also changed her Twitter profile picture to the transgender flag, and shared another post criticising the decision.
“Everyone arguing for this ban is forgetting what they’re actually scrapping for is the removal of the case-by-case basis which the RFU currently works on,” it said.
“There are only 7 trans women playing rugby in the UK. It’s not exactly a huge drain on their resources.”
From one of the most inclusive sports to one of the least in 7 votes. 🤔 https://t.co/InqmFHaBNq— Poppy (@poppy_g_c) July 29, 2022
RFU President Jeff Blackett claimed the decision was “based on all the scientific evidence available.”
The RFU began a review of its existing policy in 2020 with a survey that got over 11,000 responses.
“Inclusion is at the heart of rugby values and we will continue to work with everyone to keep listening, learning and finding ways to demonstrate there is a place for everyone in our game,” Blackett insisted.
But Susie Green, chief executive of UK LGBTQ+ charity Mermaids, described the ban as a “huge blow”.
“This is going to create a situation where you either have to choose being yourself or choose being able to participate in a sport,” she said. “That’s surely not the point of sport.
“Sport is meant to include everybody, every young person and adults of course can participate in something so important to well-being.”
Transgender rugby player Alix Fitzgerald says she feels sad that she could be excluded from playing rugby after the RFU Council vote on the issue. pic.twitter.com/bhVZ3pQO5J— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) July 28, 2022
Alix Fitzgerald, one of seven transgender women in England who had previously been permitted to play by RFU, will now effectively be banned from the sport.
“I am not the largest person on this team, I am not the strongest person on this team,” she told Sky Sports.
“That argument is a very dangerous one for rugby to go down, simply because, who’s big enough? And who’s too big?
“There are people on this team that are bigger than me, so if I’m too big, are they too big? And that’s just not right because rugby is a game for all shapes and sizes.”