Scrap Rugby World Cup choirs for our rousing national anthems

Scrap Rugby World Cup choirs for our rousing national anthems… and let’s see a Scottish haka! Singing school kids was a nice idea but they can’t do justice to France’s bloodthirsty Marseillaise

  • National anthems at the Rugby World Cup have been sung by school choirs
  • While a noble idea, the decision has stripped away the passion of the anthems
  • The lyrics are often violent and rousing, making them perfect for fans to sing  
  • Latest Rugby World Cup 2023 news, including fixtures, live scores and results

You don’t have to be much of a linguist to work out the French national anthem is a rumbustious ditty.

In fact it’s as bloody a song as you could want, La Marseillaise, ending with the fervent desire of the French to sluice their fields with the impure blood of their enemies.

The rousing climax consists of MARCHONS, MARCHONS (LET’S MARCH, LET’S MARCH, sung at volume 11 and in capitals, of course) before silencing the roar of the savage soldats who threaten them. 

Brutal stuff that has lifted the atmosphere, the pulse and the spirits of anybody who loves rugby as the prelude to every France international.

For this year’s Rugby World Cup, not so much, though. 

The French team line up for their stirring anthem La Marseillaise ahead of their Rugby World Cup opener against New Zealand – but the pre-match ritual has been ruined by school choirs

Instead of the players and fans standing in unison to belt out their national anthems, the pre-recorded clips of schoolkids singing them dominates

At some unknown decision-making point, the organisers of this mighty occasion thought it would be a good idea to remix all the anthems with an a capella Parisian school choir. Wholly commendable, I am sure, but maybe time for a rethink.

You try singing La Marseillaise in time to some close-knit treble harmonies. Or God Save The King for that matter. Or the great Welsh anthem where GWLAD… GWLAD (again sung in capitals) sounds a little odd sung by youngsters who wouldn’t be allowed anywhere near the 14 or so pints most Wales fans will have poured down themselves by this point.

It’s the hard-working kids at the choir school I feel sorry for. 

Instead of spending the summer shoving their pencils into a baguette (or whatever it is French school kids do to get on their teachers’ nerves), they have had to learn the anthems, some quite tricky, of 20 countries around the world before giving it their all in performances which might work for a John Lewis Christmas ad as some bug-eyed monster contemplates a snowy waste, but isn’t so effective for 65,000 rugby fans anxious to give it some welly.

For some, the arrival of the anthems signals a moment to slip into the kitchen to uncork a bottle of rose. I am not one of those. I love them, even the UK’s slightly dreary anthem.

There’s a strange disjunction between the charm of the school choir and the savagery of most of the lyrics (not the UK’s of course).

French supporters get into the spirit at the Stade de France ahead of their opener

Scotland’s players sing their national anthem ahead of Sunday’s game against South Africa

Lewis Ludlam, Ben Earl and Joe Marler of England sing God Save the King – but fans and pundits alike have complained it’s difficult to sing along to the choir versions

Even the Scots want to smash up King Edward’s army and send his soldiers back across the border tae think again. 

The Italians announce, ‘We are ready to die, Italy has called’). It doesn’t sound quite right in the hands of the lower fifth.

Oddly New Zealand’s anthem, God Defend New Zealand, has very pacific lyrics, requesting the deity to defend their homeland from dissension, envy and hate. That doesn’t sound too bad in the hands of the kids. The haka is different, though.

Handily, for the opening match against France, the Kiwi scrum-half Aaron Smith had brought along what looked like a canoe paddle, though it might have been a spear I suppose, to help him with the haka.

Quite why the All Blacks are allowed to intimidate opposition teams, who have to stand around watching it and looking a bit wet, is beyond me. 

Maybe all countries should have a war dance for rugby matches. I would certainly like to see the Scottish one.

Aaron Smith of New Zealand introduced a paddle to their famous pre-match haka

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