19 June 2020

England rugby legend Maggie Alphonsi admits Swing Low does not ‘sit easy’ with her as RFU investigate anthem over racial connotations

Former England Red Roses star Maggie Alphonsi has revealed that Swing Low, Sweet Chariot does not ‘sit easy’ with her but should not be banned over its ‘historical context.’

A review of the famous anthem, which is not only heard at England matches but is also written around the walls of Twickenham, is currently being conducted by the RFU.

The full history of the song dates back to a 19th Century freed slave, Wallace Willis, and became popular with folk musicians during the 1960s civil rights movement.

Talking to SkySports, 36-year-old Alphonsi revealed she stopped singing it after learning its background, but feels people should be allowed to make their own decision as to whether to sing it once they learn the history behind it.

"I remember singing it a lot when I was young, throughout my England career," she said. 

"Growing up, I didn't know anything about it. We all sung it and everyone sung it. It is one of the things that you did.

"It wasn't until someone told me about the song and its connections that I stopped singing it," she added.

"I was quite relieved that they told me because it allowed me to think, OK, what was my next step? What do I want to do?"

She said it was ‘not her place’ to tell people not to sing it but urged them to look at the song’s history.

"The song does not sit easy with me when I hear it, because I now know the connections with it," admitted the World Cup winner.

“But I also know that people singing it today are not singing it to offend.”

Swing Low usually reverberates around Twickenham during England matches (PA)

Alphonsi spoke after the RFU announced on Thursday that it would be conducting the review into the popular song.

A spokesperson said: "We need to do more to achieve diversity and we are determined to accelerate change and grow awareness.

"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 sensitivities. 

"We are reviewing its historical context and our role in educating fans to make informed decisions," they added.

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