“The RFU has stated we need to do more to achieve diversity and we are determined to accelerate change and grow awareness,” the governing body said in a statement.
“The Swing Low, Sweet Chariot song has long been part of the culture of rugby and is sung by many who have no awareness of its origins or its sensitivities.
“We are reviewing its historical context and our role in educating fans to make informed decisions.”
But former England cricket captain Michael Vaughan posted a news story about the issues around the song on Instagram with the caption: “Please tell me if I am wrong … but this surely can’t be right !!??”
Is it right for rugby fans to sing a slave-era song?
The song “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” is one of the most recognized African-American spirituals. Revered, emotive, and rooted in the horrors of US slavery and the oppression of race.
But for the last three decades, the familiar melody has also been the adopted anthem of England’s rugby union team, its haunting chorus a common echo in stadiums where the national team plays.
And therein lies the problem.
Should lyrics which are about suffering and despair be sung by thousands of England fans who are often middle-class, often White?
Three years ago, when asked by CNN whether the RFU would be reviewing the use of “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” an spokesperson for English rugby’s governing body said: “Swing Low has been associated with rugby and rugby clubs for decades. It is sung by fans to get behind the England rugby team.”