Social media has been rife with criticism of the World Cup anthems

The Rugby World Cup needs to can the kids choirs before they suck out any atmosphere that’s left in the tournament.

The children’s choirs singing the anthems might have seemed like a nice idea on paper – and are made up of students from diverse backgrounds – but the reality is sucking the life out of stadiums when it should be at fever pitch.

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Where were you the moment that several hundred years of undeniable French cultural superiority came to a crushing end? No, I’m not talking about ITV Paloma Faith-ing Edith Piaf – come back to me in six weeks when that absolutely timeless song has been reduced to a Pavlovian reach for the remote in disgust. I’m talking about what happened in the Stade De France just after 9pm local time on Friday night. I’m talking about the bloody choir.

Up to this point everything had been going swimmingly – we’d had an opening ceremony that in the finest traditions of the Rugby World Cup, was absolutely terrible and made no appreciable sense.

We’d had, in what must surely be a World Rugby mandate, a retread of the Webb Ellis myth complete with the narrator saying ‘a hooligan’s game played by gentlemen’ in French… we’d had an atmosphere so electrically charged that not even Bill Beaumont’s massacring of the Language Of Love could dampen their spirits – they even booed Emmanuel Macron with a weirdly party atmosphere.

World Cup kids choirs anthems saga explained

But nothing could have prepared us for the anthems, and specifically the Rugby World Cup’s decision to have the anthem’s sung by a children’s choir that – while undeniably technically excellent – meant the anthems were sung with a metre and tempo that literally nobody in the stadium, or anyone at home for that matter, was able to get the measure of. Also, it was just a bit creepy too – like something from a Stephen King novel.

The 80,000 French fans belting out La Marseillaise before a rugby match is supposed to be a spine tingling moment. And given the electric atmosphere in the build-up, and the fact that this was France in France at their own World Cup, this could have been a moment to rival the lightning strike build-up of France v South Africa in Marseille in 2022.

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Instead, the muddled attempt by France and their fans to belt out the anthem properly against the grain of the deafening volume of the kids choir served to suck the whole life out of this stadium – no wonder France conceded after 90 seconds, they were probably still thinking about what the hell they had just witnessed.

But then it got worse – in Saint-Étienne and Bordeaux on Saturday it became clear that this wasn’t a one-off for the opening match, this was the plan for every game. Not content with murdering La Marseillaise and God Defend New Zealand, less than 24 hours later they were coming for Il Canto degli Italiani, and that was just the start.

With each passing game, it gets more and more difficult to comprehend – fans belting out the anthems with tears streaming down their faces is one of the great atmosphere generators in rugby, and they just wanna… kill that every game?

Kids choirs have their place I suppose – if they wanna get them to do some lovely singing before the game, or at half-time, crack on – I’m sure the crowd will love it (though anyone who watched an Ospreys home fixture pre-Covid will remember the Liberty Stadium kids choir through gritted teeth).

But leave the anthems be – we don’t need any help singing them, in fact they’re usually all the more spine-tingling without any accompaniment whatsoever.

If the RWC wants to save this tournament from descending into a flat mess, they’ll pull the kids before they have the chance to ruin anyone else’s tournament.

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