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A novel distributed fibre sensing technique is described and experimentally validated, based on birefringence measurements using coherent Rayleigh scattering. It natively provides distributed measurements of temperature and strain with more than an order of magnitude higher sensitivity than Brillouin sensing, and requiring access to a single fibre-end. Unlike the traditional Rayleigh-based coherent optical time-domain reflectometry, this new method provides absolute measurements of the measurand and may lead to a robust discrimination between temperature and strain in combination with another technique. Since birefringence is purposely induced in the fibre by design, large degrees of freedom are offered to optimize and scale the sensitivity to a given quantity. The technique has been validated in 2 radically different types of birefringent fibres – elliptical-core and Panda polarization-maintaining fibres – with a good repeatability.