HALIFAX -- A ban on rugby by Nova Scotia's governing body for high school athletics drew political fire Friday, with the province's Official Opposition calling for an immediate reinstatement of the sport.

In a statement, Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Houston decried the decision by the Nova Scotia School Athletic Federation, noting that it had resulted in "widespread shock and anger from the public."

Houston said the federation must reverse its decision.

"This has been ripped away from them abruptly and without warning. I am asking the Nova Scotia School Athletic Federation to do the fair thing and reinstate the program so players can finish out the season."

Houston called the decision shortsighted and said the ban will have a disproportionate impact on female athletes.

In brief statement Thursday, the Nova Scotia School Athletic Federation said its board of governors made the decision for safety reasons after reviewing incident report data from the School Insurance Program.

The decision prompted a rowdy protest at a Halifax shopping mall later in the day, where dozens of high school students chanted: "We want to play!"

The Cape Breton Victoria Regional Centre for Education has confirmed that an international student attending the Sydney Academy was injured and received medical attention during a rugby match on Wednesday.

Rugby Nova Scotia later issued a statement saying the group was "very disappointed with the decision."