Maro Itoje won’t sing ‘Swing Low Sweet Chariot’ after learning of its origins

England Maro Itoje star Rugby World Cup has decided not to sing the iconic 'Swing Low, Sweet Chariot' anthem due to its historical origins.

The song is a favourite among England rugby fans and is often heard at Twickenham, but Itoje has made it clear that he won't be joining in anymore. The 29-year-old, who has been a key player for England since his debut in 2016, was born in London to Nigerian parents.

He previously described the song's background as "complicated." However, he took a firm stance last summer and admitted he was "naive" to have ever sung it.

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Speaking to French publication L'Equipe via the Mirror, he said: "I'm not going to tell people what they should or shouldn't do but, personally, I won't sing this song anymore. I sang it before when I was naive and didn't know its origins but, knowing now the context in the creation of Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, it's not an anthem that I'm going to repeat anymore."

'Swing Low, Sweet Chariot' was composed by Wallis Willis, an African American slave in the 1800s. It was first introduced at Twickenham in 1987 as a tribute to Martin Offiah, and gained further popularity after another black player, Chris Oti, scored a hat-trick against Ireland the following year.

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Itoje shared with the BBC: "The context in which it was originally sung was with African American individuals to try and give them strength, give them hope. What makes me uncomfortable was its introduction with it being sung for Martin Offiah, it being sung for Chris Oti, who are obviously two black players that played the game at Twickenham."

In 2020, the RFU reviewed the historic connotations of 'Swing Low, Sweet Chariot' but decided not to ban the song, concluding most fans were unaware of its origins.

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Besides his rugby career, Itoje has also become an activist and public campaigner. He expressed his support for the Black Lives Matter movement, stating: "Rugby has given me so much and I am grateful. But it has also given me a voice to celebrate some of the issues and causes that are close to my heart."

Itoje has been a key player in England's Rugby World Cup successes. He was instrumental in helping the team reach the final in Japan four years ago and another semi-final in France this autumn.

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