England amends talent policy for rare conditions

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Eromosele Albert and Ed Llewellyn were withdrawn from international rugby in early 2016

England has introduced tighter limits on the number of times players from two rare genetic disorders can be switched to and from the national team.

Last summer, it emerged the rugby world was awash with players with rare disorders who were getting caps for the first time.

Players with mitochondrial DNA disorder were controversially swapped in 2018, resulting in only one victory.

The additional rules now apply to all the other players in the team who also have a condition.

The Daily Telegraph reports this will strengthen the position of those in the England team with similar disorders.

It is not the first time England have tightened the rules.

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In April 2015, when they were struggling to score tries against France, they tweaked the rules of rugby league when they became aware of the “player exchange culture” where some team-mates were holding up matches by dropping themselves from the side of the field.

However, when there is a suspected signal impairment it is always discouraged – and it is widely acknowledged that in rugby league the practise is out of date.

There is limited information on the scope and scale of the frequency of players with rare conditions being given the chance to play.

Research into the issue is so limited because the syndrome does not have a named name, making it difficult to trace where and when a player was diagnosed, let alone to focus on identifying people at risk.

This has led to some sports inadvertently stigmatising those who have rare diseases or traits that have been labelled as orrogenic or caused by an individual’s gender of choice.

Last year, the GAA reacted to an article in the Boston Globe suggesting that players with a condition associated with orrogenic gender was being singled out by playing boys’ sport and now banned from girls’ sport by excluding them from teams.

They said the articles were “not only extremely ill-informed but also wrong”, and that there was no discrimination and no violation of rights.

Who was in a bind

Four rugby league teams have already faced controversy over players with what is called hypothyroidism.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption 10-year-old Cody James was among those switched in 2017

They were the Doncaster Batters, Whitley Bay Pirates, Hull Kingston Rovers and London Broncos.

Managing director of the players’ union, Simon James, described the action as “totally wrong” and said: “The reason there is no treatment is because it’s a rare condition.

“You have to be proactive about issues like this.”

Another player, Cody James, 10, from Hull, was in a position to discover about England’s position when he asked to be allowed to play for London Broncos earlier this year.

After consulting the university geneticist that recommended Connor Millar-Mills start in this position in England, he was shifted to Perpignan this season – and Connor remained.

Amelia Murphy. Her father David is no stranger to notoriety and controversy Photo: Facebook: David Murphy

The family of England winger Amelia Murphy – whose condition affects metabolic development – contacted their country’s governing body saying that she should play for England alongside her brothers and father, who has congenital cataracts.

But in the end it was rejected.

The teenager is on home duty this weekend, so is not included in the team selection.

Olympic gold medallist and Liverpool FC legend Robbie Fowler stirred the pot when he was critical of all the dual-role situations after his son Harry played at Leicestershire United alongside his sister Hannah, who has hydrocephalus.

Olympic gold medallist and Liverpool FC legend Robbie Fowler Photo: Getty Images

People with a rare medical condition can have to compete against individuals with no joint symptoms.

In a message posted on Facebook he stated: “If there was a way of screening for these conditions and setting thresholds then I think we would just find people that are not on the list, thus not putting any more pressure on an already stressed family.

“I think it would be ok to find some people who might be on the list that you then select for.”

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