England fans accuse World Cup organisers of 'butchering' anthem

Rugby players are left baffled by child choirs singing their national anthems at the World Cup in France as England fans accuse organisers of ‘butchering’ God Save The King

  • Decision by French officials to sign up school choirs has been met with disdain 
  • Latest Rugby World Cup 2023 news, including fixtures, live scores and results

Rugby players were left baffled by child choirs singing their national anthems at the England versus Argentina match on Saturday as fans accused the organisers of ‘butchering’ God Save The King.

As England’s Rugby World Cup team lined up in their opening match at Marseille’s Stade Velodrome a high-pitched rendition of the national anthem filled the stadium, as players looked puzzled and fans were thrown off guard as they tried to sing along.

The decision by French officials to commission school choirs to do renditions of national anthems at this year’s competition has been met with unanimous disdain from supporters on all sides.

Former Ireland international Rob Kearney argued that the pre-recorded videos of children singing are ‘killing that five-minute pre-game buzz’.

Andy Goode, the former Saracens and Leicester Tigers player, wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter: ‘Can whoever is in charge of all the anthems at the @rugbyworldcup please stop butchering the life out of them!’

The players of England sing their national anthem prior to during the Rugby World Cup France 2023 match between England and Argentina at Stade Velodrome on September 09, 2023 in Marseille, France

Argentine fans cheer on their team prior to kick off for the Rugby World Cup Pool D match between England and Argentina in the Stade de Marseille, Marseille, France on September 9, 2023

Organisers are now weighing up scrapping the children’s choir due to the criticism, according to French media.

Officials will meet to discuss potential solutions this week, including permitting fans and players to sing the second half of the national anthem a cappella, rugby publication Midi Olympique reported.

Former players have urged the French Rugby Federation to get rid of the choirs and instead opt for a more traditional approach.

Mirco Bergamesco, the former Italian centre, posted on X: ‘Can’t we have the anthems being sung normally please? The most important thing is the players… It’s a unique moment!’

Brian O’Driscoll, who captained Ireland from 2003 until 2012, told the Off The Ball podcast: ‘The anthems have been terrible!

‘The two big anthems if we are honest are La Marseillaise and the Italian national anthem.

‘Both of them feel like they’ve been butchered! There is no opportunity for everyone to get in behind it.’

England fans in the stands before the 2023 Rugby World Cup Pool D match at the Stade de Marseille, on September 9, 2023

Lesley Garrett CBE, who has previously sung the national anthem prior to rugby, football and cricket games for England, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Monday that organisers had not grasped the point of the pre-game ritual.

‘The organisers have misunderstood the vital relationship between the anthems, the players and the fans,’ she said.

‘They’ve misunderstood the purpose of singing at sporting events in my opinion.

‘It’s absolutely vital through the singing of the national anthem that the team and the fans and the wider audience are given the opportunity to be bound together in what is going to be a massive endeavour.

‘A lot of the choirs are pre-recorded and I think the whole essence of the relationship between singing and sport is the fact that it’s all live and everyone is doing it together and it’s binding the people who are going to be playing and watching.’

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