The eyes of the world are trained on France, soaking up rugby’s biggest party, but the ears have been sadly underwhelmed.
The Rugby World Cup has started with a burst of compelling action on the pitch, but the tournament’s first weekend was blighted by some off-kilter sounds.
The pre-match anthems are always when the crowd — the 16th man, according to cliche — can boost their teams just before kick-off.
But when France hosted New Zealand on Friday night, the Stade de France was treated to an underwhelming rendition of usually stirring anthem La Marseillaise, with the use of 7,000 children’s voices widely criticised. God Defend New Zealand proved equally off-key, and so the anthems followed for the full first round of pool matches.
Choirs of French schoolchildren have recorded new versions of all the anthems, but the overly choral arrangements and the mixing with the backing tracks have struck a bum note. The feedback has been disastrous, and tournament bosses have finally relented by agreeing to record new versions of the anthems.
So, when France host Uruguay in Lille on Thursday night, hopes will be high for a return to more tub-thumping versions, in which the crowds can fully participate with traditional gusto.
A statement from tournament chiefs read: “Rugby World Cup 2023 can confirm enhancements have been agreed to the national anthems moving forward.
“The France 2023 Organising Committee, World Rugby and the French Ministry of Sport, in agreement with the Opéra-Comique and participating teams have agreed remixed versions of the national anthems, performed by the Mélée des Choeurs, an educational and artistic project that involves more than 7,000 schoolchildren in the 2022/2023 school year.
Hopes will be high for a return to more tub-thumping versions, in which the crowds can fully participate with traditional gusto
“The re-mixed anthems will retain the recordings of the children’s voices while boosting the instrumental elements.
“Following positive feedback on the approach, a number of unions, notably France, have agreed to the use of these new versions with final confirmation from all teams to be achieved in the next 48 hours.”
The World Cup has started well on a rugby front, but organisation has been left wanting in several areas. Thousands of England and Argentina supporters were caught in a crush attempting to enter Marseille’s Stade Velodrome for Saturday’s Pool D clash. Scores of them failed to see any of the first quarter, which led to an apology from organisers.