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New Zealand
Teenage girl banned from playing men's rugby
ESPN Staff
July 24, 2014

April Miller, the teenage girl starring in men's rugby union in New Zealand, has been banned from playing in the Southland Presidents Grade competition.

The 18-year-old daughter of former Southland representative Wayne Miller, and the niece of former All Blacks back-rower Paul Miller, had been tearing it up in the second-row for the Pukerau Rugby Club's senior men's team. She had turned to the club because there was not a single senior women's rugby club in Southland, saying: "I thought I feel like playing rugby again so I asked if I could play and they said 'yes'. I thought they were only joking but they weren't. They found me a jersey and we went from there."

But she has since been told that she is not allowed to play in President Grade, with Rugby Southland community rugby manager Don McFarlane saying "no girls are to play in men's rugby above primary-school age".

"From an official perspective there should be no girls playing at that level in a men's team," McFarlane told Fairfax Media in New Zealand.

Rugby Southland general manager Brian Hopley, meanwhile, said that international rugby guidelines prevented mixed gender teams after the age of 13 - although exceptions could be made up to 15.

He told NZ Newswire the rules had been made for health and safety reasons.

"It is for her protection and it's for the protection of all players. We need to manage the risks on behalf of players and parents for the good of the game."

Hopley apologised to Miller for the confusion, after she had been registered to play, but he said that New Zealand Rugby and the players concerned could face major issues if a female was hurt playing in a male competition.

But with Southland not having a senior women's competition, Miller will now not be able to play at a higher grade.

"We certainly want more women playing the game and will continue to look for opportunities to have a senior women's team compete," Hopley said. "However unfortunately we don't have a team entered this year as we did last year."

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