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Win this superb book about English Rugby

English rugby’s sesquicentennial has been marked by the publication of an appropriately lavish book. England Rugby 1871-2021: 150 Years is published by VSP and charts the fascinating history of the Red Rose nation since the RFU’s foundation and the inaugural rugby International during the Victorian era.

You can read a review of the book here.

At the foot of this article, we’re giving you a chance to win one of three copies of the book (RRP £30), which is written by Phil McGowan and Richard Steele from the World Rugby Museum. First, here’s a short extract from the book that details the origins of England’s unofficial anthem Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

England 150 book cover

Swing Low, Sweet Chariot is an old Afro-American spiritual song sometimes credited to freed slave Wallis Willis. It is thought to have been inspired by the Red River in Oklahoma and it has been surmised that the chariot refers to the Underground Railway, a secret network of safe houses that helped slaves escape north to the Free States and Canada.

The song has been sung in English rugby clubhouses since the 1960s but was first heard at Twickenham during the Middlesex Sevens, an end-of-season invitational tournament hosted by Twickenham from 1926 to 2011.

On a balmy summer afternoon in 1987, a classic edition of the tournament played out in which Harlequins and Rosslyn Park II progressed to the final.

In the Rosslyn Park side was 20-year-old Martin Offiah. Known to his team-mates as ‘Chariots’, Offiah’s prolific try-scoring throughout the tournament and earlier in the year at the Hong Kong Sevens inspired the watching faithful to song.

Win this superb book about English rugby

Martin Offiah eludes Harlequins during the 1996 Middlesex Sevens, when he was playing for Wigan (Getty)

The ‘Voice of Rugby’ commentator Bill McLaren described the “great waves of song” from the terrace as Swing Low, Sweet Chariot rang out at Twickenham for the first time.

It might have proved a one-off but for England’s astonishing second-half performance the following year against Ireland at Twickenham. Six second-half tries, including two for Rory Underwood and three for fellow wing Chris Oti on his home debut, had fans on their feet and Swing Low rang out once more.

Related content: When Rory Underwood met Jonny May

Since then, Swing Low has been an enduring anthem of English rugby and it has a long-held place in the history of the game. As part of its commitment to improving diversity and inclusion, the RFU continues to use social media and other means to proactively educate fans on the history and provenance of the song.

Chris Oti, England hat-trick hero v Ireland 1988

Will Carling congratulates Chris Oti on his game-changing hat-trick against Ireland in March 1988 (Getty)

Now enter our competition to win this terrific book or buy it here

England Rugby 1871-2021: 150 Years is published by VSP, RRP £30, and is sure to enhance your book collection. You can buy it by clicking on the link below.

We also have three copies to give away, courtesy of the publishers. For your chance to win this superb book about English rugby, just answer the question below and fill in your details. The competition closes on Monday 5 July.

Win this superb book about English rugby

An England scrum-half wrong-foots Italy’s defence in the Six Nations – but who he is? (Getty Images)